TPWD needs $18.9 million to not close 20 parks

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BONHAM, TX -- Texas Parks and Wildlife officials are calling on the state legistlature for help. The department says if they don't get nearly $19 million they will be forced to shut down many parks.

Park Ranger, Lee Ellis, has been managing the Bonham State Park for 10 years. He says the park is used by many as an escape from the busy city life.

But lack of funding could force up to 20 state parks to close. The Texas Parks and Wildlife department has made a legislative request of nearly $19 million of which about $11 million is needed to maintain current state park operations.

"Last year, our budget was $60,000, our base budget for operation. And when you take electricity out of that, which was over $20,000 just on electricity, there's no way you do everything you want to do," Ellis said.

Senator Craig Estes hopes lawmakers can come together to find a solution.

"The problem we have is a diversion of revenue streams in a lot of different areas and it's troublesome to me," Estes said.

Right now, a state sporting goods sales tax goes to Texas Parks and Wildlife, but some of the revenue is being used for other things. The Senator has authored a bill, that he says will end the diversion of the parks funds so all of the estimated $125 million in annual revenue will go solely to the parks.

Ellis says Bonham State Park had record turnout in 2012.

"Last year, we had 45,000 people come out to this little park, and we're a small park," Ellis said.

So, he's optimistic about how things will turn out. Senator Estes is too.

"We have precious little recreational opportunity for a lot of people in the big cities. And we want to make sure that they, you know, nothing replaces to me parents and kids camping out, enjoying nature. So we'll do our part," Estes said

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