Drought-Ravaged Texas Parks Need Money & Visitors, State Says

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The crippling drought of 2011 left Texas parks under-visited and in need of cash to make up a budget shortfall, officials are saying.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is putting out a call for people to come to the parks (and therefore generate revenue via admission fees) and also to make donations.

"A 'triple whammy' of record heat and drought, devastating wildfires and a corresponding decline in visitation and revenue has created a critical need for Texas State Parks," TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said. "So, we are reaching out for help."

The agency has a $4.6 million shortfall in its $69 million budget, since admission fees -- which usually make up about half of revenue -- are down 11 percent.

That $4.6 million figure "is the amount we need to raise to help keep state parks open. We want to alert people now while there is still time to help," smith said.

And so:

TPWD is rolling out a multi-faceted awareness campaign stressing three calls to action:

One, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks to make a tax-deductible, year-end donation. Two, starting Jan. 1, make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration. And, most important, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks.

"Cooler weather makes fall and winter a fine time to visit state parks, which are great places for holiday outings and gatherings," said Brent Leisure, TPWD state parks director. "Also, recent rains are allowing many of our parks to lift burn bans. That's making campfires possible once again, an important tradition for many park visitors."

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