Will Texas Foot the Bill to Open National Parks?
As the government shutdown drags on, it's created plenty of frustrating situations -- people who can't get into medical programs, thousands of workers furloughed without pay, and of course, the shutting down of all national parks.
Texas has some great national parks within our borders -- Big Bend, the Guadalupe Mountains, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, the Big Thicket, the Padre Island National Seashore, just to name a few. All of the parks have been closed since the shutdown started, along with the rest of the national parks in the country.
A few states -- those most likely to be economically gutted by prolonged closure of their national parks and the economies that revolve around the parks -- decided to bite the bullet last week, stepping up to pay to re-open the national parks. State officials in Utah, Colorado, New York and Arizona took the president and the Department of the Interior up on the offer to allow the states to open the national parks. However, the states have to pay for it and they won't be reimbursed once the federal government gets going again. (Assuming that ever actually happens.)
It will cost millions but maybe it's time for Texas to start considering opening our national parks back up again, operating on the theory that it's a lot harder to sell off something that's already up and running. However, as the San Antonio Express-News reported, the state already has trouble supporting state parks -- there was a budget gap of $4.5 million in 2012 -- so it seems the odds are slim that state officials will be willing to take on funding the national parks as well.
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The thing is, this is Texas and as everyone from around here knows there's only a few months (and in some spots weeks or days) where you can actually take your gear and get out there and do outdoorsy national park stuff and not be highly likely to die of heatstroke. There's only a small window of time and that window is totally being blocked by the government shutdown.
Hell, it's even dangerous. A couple of weeks ago, an Arkansas couple (actually a reporter and photographer from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) came to Texas to hiking in Big Bend, something they've done for years. When they found the park was closed they went to a nearby state park they didn't know as well. The pair got lost and the photographer husband finally had to leave his wife behind to see if he could find his way out of the park and find help, according to the Associated Press. They finally found her, but it was dicey out there, and it's entirely possible it wouldn't have happened if they'd gone to the national park they always go to.
It's possible all of those squabbling politicians will make a deal soon, and the parks will be open by themselves. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Fingers crossed no one else gets lost or somehow injured before all this gets sorted out.