November 1, 2019
Bryan/College Station Eagle | By Megan Rodriguez
One of the 10 constitutional amendments on the ballot Tuesday is Proposition 5, which could have a direct impact on state parks and historical sites around the Brazos Valley.
If Proposition 5 passes, it will change the state constitution so that the sales tax on sporting goods will only go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. The Texas Legislature passed a law for this to happen in 1993, but Rep. John P. Cryier, R-Lockhart, told the Texas Tribune that tax revenue is often used to balance the state budget.
According to the TPWD website, there are dozens of capital repair projects that are underway to improve parks, and the completion of them depends on the sporting goods sales tax. Additionally, there are many projects that have been completed in the past thanks to the tax.
Projects at Lake Somerville State Park, which is about 40 minutes west of Bryan-College Station, include facility and bridge repairs from flood recovery. In recent years, the park was able to replace the wastewater treatment plant with revenue from the tax, according to the TPWD website.
Somerville State Park Superintendent John Rorie said that the majority of the park’s visitors are from the B-CS community. With three state parks and two historic sites about an hour drive from College Station, Rorie said if Proposition 5 passes, there could be changes made in those areas frequented by residents of the Brazos Valley.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, which was recently changed from a state park to historic site, also might see work done, from structural improvements on old buildings to windows and gutters that need to be replaced.
There has been a rise in the number of people who visit state parks and historic sites in recent years, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site Manager Jonathan Failor said, which leads to more wear on facilities and a greater need to keep up the area.
While Proposition 5 would most directly impact state parks and historical sites, there is also a chance that if it passes, there could be an increase in grant funds for city parks.
College Station Parks and Recreation Director David Schmitz said the amount of funds that trickle down to counties and municipalities will be determined by the TPWD, but it is usually done through several grant opportunities that cities are permitted to apply for. However, he noted, the grants are highly competitive.
Bryan Communications and Marketing Manager Kristen Waggener said the city has used state grant funds in the past to complete projects in places including Haswell Park and Austin’s Colony Park.
“The impact, if it were to be approved, could be increased grant funds,” Waggener said. “We don’t know if that would happen for sure, but it could be a secondary impact rather than a direct impact.”
Failor said there are outside organizations, including the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association, have supported Proposition 5 because they believe parks could benefit from the amendment.
“If it passes and the voters feel that this is what they want to put their support toward, that is game-changing to us,” Failor said. “We could really start to see funding for projects that have long needed it.”