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Texas Parks Say They Need Money To Repair Flood Damage

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Damage at Blanco State Park after Memorial Day Floods

Portions of Texas 96 parks remain closed because of flood damage and fire.  Parks officials told legislators Monday expensive repairs are needed to reopen the inaccessible areas. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife CEO Carter Smith says his agency will soon be pumping $261 million into infrastructure and damage repairs.

Much of that money comes from sporting goods sales tax Texans pay when they buy outdoor equipment. For years, lawmakers sat on that money to balance their books. But last session they decided the money should go to its dedicated purpose, parks.

Credit Ryan E Poppe
Carter Smith, CEO for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Carter told members of a Texas House committee that since Memorial Day portions of about two-thirds of the state's 95 parks were closed because of flooding.  

 Smith says that cuts into tourism revenue spent in communities near the parks.  He says the agency will be spending just over $40 million dollars to repair flood damage during the remainder of this year.

Even with the widespread park closures in 2015, the agency saw a 16-percent increase in the number of visitors statewide.

Brent Leisure, the state’s park director, says with icrased park use maintenance is growing, and dozens of parks need significant plumbing upgrades because of their age.  

“Because of the growth we’ve seen in visitation, the demands on operating costs has increased considerably. The electricity use, the repairs to facilities, because they are in greater demand and being used.”