City Officials Fight To Keep Texas State Railroad Running - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/28/06-Palestine

City Officials Fight To Keep Texas State Railroad Running

  City officials from Rusk and Palestine say they won't let their the Texas State Railroad shut down.  They say it's a part of history that can't be replaced. They are now looking at ways other than the state to keep the train running.  

More than 300 people from around the country came out today to experience a piece of history.

"It brought back a lot of memories," said Melvin Burkett, rider. "I had one other train ride in my life, just a young kid, a teenager you might say and I really enjoyed it."    The city says rider ship is up from last year. By the end of the year officials expect the train to have more than 60,000, the best they've seen in ten years.

"The Texas State Railroad is the signature tourist attraction for East Texas," said Palestine Mayor Carolyn Salter. "If it fails to continue I believe we are going to see a ripple effect all across East Texas." To prevent that city officials from Rusk and Palestine have formed a task force and are now trying to find a private operator to keep the train running.

"A private operator will have the ability to raise ticket prices and to operate the Texas State Railroad as a business," said Salter. "Government entities are not designed to run entertainment venues." Right now, the Task Force has found two experienced operators interested in the railroad. Now, the group needs the legislatures support.

"We have made personal trips to Austin to visit with the legislatures," said Al Holmes, member of Task Force. "We went last week and we will be going again in September."

"The emotional impact of the threatened loss of not only this park, but all the parks has been a surprise to the governor and the state legislature," said Salter. "I don't think they understand how passionate people are about the park." This Task Force is very passionate, and members say they will not give up.

Saturday, a rally to save the Texas State Railroad will be held at the Palestine depot, starting at 10:00 a.m.   The Texas State Railroad is just one of 18 parks in Texas that may close because of budget cuts.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com

 

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