$1B fund for Texas parks is on the ballot
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.
- Ray Roberts Lake State Park — just north of Denton — was the most visited state park in fiscal year 2022 with more than 880,000 visitors.
- Cedar Hill State Park drew more than 320,000 visitors as the fifth most visited park.
- Dinosaur Valley State Park, southwest of Fort Worth, was the eighth most visited park with more than 240,000 visitors to see dinosaur footprints.
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).
More Dallas stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Dallas.