Updated Oct 12, 2023 - News

$1B fund for Texas parks is on the ballot

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is about five hours from Dallas-Fort Worth. Photo: Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Texas voters will decide on a ballot measure in November to amend the state constitution to create a Centennial Parks Conservation Fund to invest $1 billion to buy land to expand and improve state parks.

Why it matters: Texas is more than congested highways, cityscapes and flat expanses. There are sandy beaches and wildlife preserves on the coast, pine forests in the east and red canyons in the west.

  • But less than 3% of the state's diverse landscape is dedicated to parks.

State of play: Texas ranks 35th nationwide for state park acreage per capita, and development to accommodate millions of new residents is encroaching on park land.

How it works: The proposed conservation fund — paid for by an appropriation from the state's general revenue — would be administered by the Parks and Wildlife Department.

  • Funds could also be used to buy land surrounding current parks to ensure residential and commercial development doesn't intrude on the open space.
  • The money can't be used for salaries, employee benefits or operational costs.

The intrigue: Both traditionally liberal conservation groups and Republican activists support the proposed amendment.

  • The bipartisan bill to create the fund was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Tan Parker of Flower Mound.

What they're saying: Dallas businessman Doug Deason, a Republican, said he quickly threw his support behind the measure after a visit from the Environment Texas executive director.

  • "I'm a conservationist," Deason says. "We have, a lot of times, the same goals, the left and the right. We have a little bit of a different way of getting there, but we all have the same goals."

By the numbers: Millions of people visit Texas state parks every year, and some of the most visited parks are in North Texas.

What's next: Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, about 80 miles west of Fort Worth, will be the first new state park near North Texas to open in 25 years.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say the conservation funds would come from the state's general revenue (not its rainy day fund).


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