State lawmakers aim to lock in funding for Texas parks, historic sites

For nearly a decade, the Texas parks department has hoped to turn a 4,400-acre swath of pristine forest in North Texas into what some hope could be the “metroplex’s playground.”

About 80 miles west of downtown Fort Worth, the already-named Palo Pinto Mountains State Park — with a scenic ridge overlooking a lake and more-than-ample space for camping — promises to be a huge recreational draw.

But the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has struggled to secure funding from the state Legislature to install the infrastructure that would make the park fit for public use.

As park visitation skyrockets statewide, Palo Pinto is just one victim of what parks advocates say is a chronically underfunded state parks department that has struggled not only to develop new natural areas but also to maintain existing ones.

That trend could change soon, however.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Rep John P. Cyrier, R-Lockhart, have filed legislation that would ensure that the state parks department always gets the maximum amount of money it is authorized to receive from a tax on the sale of sporting goods to maintain parks and build new ones — but only if voters approve it.

Read more from the Texas Tribune here.