Access Fund Lobbies for Increased Funding for Texas State Parks

Texas state parks are home to some of the best climbing in the state, including world-class bouldering at Hueco Tanks, granite trad climbing at Enchanted Rock, and the steep, powerful bouldering at McKinney Falls. Access Fund has been working to protect climbing access in Texas state parks for years, and we are now engaging on an issue that affects the entire state parks system—funding.

Climbing in Hueco Tanks State Park, ancestral lands of the Mescalero Apache, Mansos, Jornada Mogollon, and Tiguas. Photo courtesy of © Merrick Ales.

State parks in Texas are funded through a sporting goods sales tax. However, it is up to the state legislature to appropriate those funds to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Since 1993, nearly $2.5 billion has been collected in sporting good sales tax, but only 40% of that tax revenue has been appropriated to fund state parks and historic sites, leaving many state parks critically underfunded and, in some cases, forced to close for failed infrastructure. At Balmorhea State Park, for example, a long-neglected concrete wall that was built in the 1930s collapsed, and the entire park was forced to close for repairs.

In Texas, 95% of land is privately owned. With only 5% open to the public, opportunities to recreate in state parks are extremely important for climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. State parks are also a huge economic driver for the state, generating $900 million in sales annually. With the Texas population set to double in 30 years, it is critical that state parks have the funding to address infrastructure needs and expand outdoor opportunities in the state. Without that funding, parks will continue to battle failing infrastructure and overuse.

Last year, Access Fund joined a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations to lobby the Texas legislature to pass a constitutional amendment that would dedicate 100% of the sporting goods sales tax to state parks and historic sites. After months of meetings and hearings, both the House and Senate passed the joint resolutions by overwhelming margins. The measure will now be included in the 2019 ballot for Texas voters and, if passed, it will become law. We are optimistic, as the Texas Coalition for State Parks estimates that 75% of Texans would approve this constitutional amendment.