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From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

You already know that Texas has a great state park system operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; however, you may not realize that this isn’t your typical “state park” system. To say that the 120 sites in TPWD’s State Parks are “diverse” is a gross understatement. It is an incredibly diverse system in more ways than one.

The most obvious are the parks that we refer to as outdoor recreation parks such as Inks Lake, Cedar Hill, Ray Roberts, Galveston Island, Huntsville, Lake Brownwood, Caddo Lake, Dinosaur Valley, Sea Rim and Big Bend Ranch. However, did you know that there are several historic homes/inns such as Landmark Inn, Varner-Hogg Plantation, Magoffin Home and Fulton Mansion in our “parks” system?

In addition, our system includes incredibly beautiful and unique natural areas such as Enchanted Rock, Lost Maples, Hill Country and Honey Creek. We manage and interpret several historic forts, such as Fort Richardson, Fort Griffin and Fort McKavett. Cabins, group facilities, and picnic areas at more than 30 of our state parks were built out by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s including those at Bastrop, Daingerfield, Palo Duro Canyon and Garner.

Many of our state’s most revered historic sites associated with our battle for independence also grace our park system, including San Jacinto, the Fannin Battleground, Monument Hill and Washington-on-the-Brazos. There are numerous outstanding archaeological sites within our park system including the remarkable pictographs found on sites like Seminole Canyon, Hueco Tanks and Devils River. An effort to demonstrate the diversity of sites found in the Texas State Park system would not be complete without mentioning the Battleship Texas, the Texas State Railroad, Indian Lodge, the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Wyler Aerial Tramway.

Now, having said all that, this wonderful diversity of parks and sites creates some management and financial responsibilities for all Texans to consider and help deal with. Our state park system is blessed to have a small group of dedicated employees who must excel in a wide diversity of skills and knowledge. However, you don’t find parts for a railroad steam engine, or for a battleship, at the local hardware store. An overhaul of one locomotive steam engine costs in excess of one million dollars. The Battleship must be “dry-docked” every 12-15 years at a cost of $15-$20 million. The replacement of the water/wastewater system at a typical large park comes in at about $750,000.

Bottom line, the cost of operating and maintaining this wonderful and diverse system cannot be covered by park entrance fees. Texas’ state parks need significant additional financial support from all Texans just to maintain, care for and operate what we have. We have requested additional general revenue in our legislative appropriations request to fund our repair and maintenance projects across the state, and we have requested additional general revenue for needed additional park staff and operating expenses. I am confident that the Texas Legislature will do everything that they can to help. Texas state parks appreciate your continued support and caring involvement; future generations will thank you.

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