In 2001, Texas Tech University, in coordination with Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), published a report that suggested the state of Texas would need to add 1.4 million acres of new land for use as state parks by 2030 to meet its goal of 55 acres per 1000 people.
Since then, only 4,871 acres of land will have been added when Palo Pinto Mountains State Park opens later this year. State park infrastructure was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, visitors increased to more than 10 million a year, forcing Balmorhea, Enchanted Rock, Garner State Park, and more to limit their number of visitors so as not to be overwhelmed. Texas ranks 35th nationally for state parkland per capita and 28th nationally for state and federal parkland per capita.
In the upcoming constitutional amendment election, Proposition 14 would go some way toward addressing these issues by establishing the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund (CPCF) to create and improve state parks. The Legislature has already allocated money to the fund and upon approval of Prop 14 by voters, CPCF would receive $1 billion.
In a recent article he wrote for the Dallas Morning News, Senator Parker makes the following case in support of Prop 14:
The legacy of our state parks is intertwined with the spirit of Texas. Our shared history is one of resilience, innovation, and boundless optimism. As we mark this centennial milestone, let us celebrate the memories forged in the heart of our parks and take decisive action to ensure their future.
Together, we can ensure that the beauty, wonder, and history of Texas are celebrated for generations to come.
“Land is not getting cheaper,” says George Bristol, author of Texas State Parks: The First 100 Years. “There are more people in the state and more people coming to the state, and they are looking for recreation and places to go in state parks. The need is there.” Indeed, Texas sits dead last of the largest states by land area in terms of state and federal parkland, with 0.95 percent of the state’s land area being devoted to park acreage. By comparison, Florida sits at 6.6 percent, California at 7.5 percent, Alaska at 9.1 percent.
To be sure, the state’s full-throated commitment to private property rights and private land ownership are foundational to the state’s economic strength and spirit of individualism. However, public access to the natural beauty of the state and to its historic sites plays a key role in passing the traditions and history of the state from one generation of Texans to the next. Proposition 14 would help provide the necessary funding to acquire additional parkland to the benefit of all Texans.