Last month, Texas Parks and Wildlife asked the state for an additional 85 million dollars to improve parks. They say, they've slowly been falling apart over the years. Right now, Texas is 49th in state funding. Without more money soon around 20 parks are expected to close. Texans use state parks for all different reasons.
"This is a nice place to relax you know on my day off," said Renco Melara, park goer.
"It's a way to get back to nature," said Frank Lane, park goer. "It's soothing, and it's beautiful." That experience shared by so many, is now in jeopardy. Director of State Parks Walt Dabney says Texas Parks and Wildlife has done everything it can to save money.
"We limped a long for a long time trying to make it work, until it got to the point where it absolutely couldn't and it started collapsing," said Dabney. Tyler State Park is just one of several parks suffering from the lack of state funding. It says it doesn't have the money to repair the facilities that need it, like rest rooms.
"We need to replace those rest rooms with totally accessible rest rooms, new modern facilities," said Bill Smart, Tyler State Park Superintendent. "Facilities that are not 40 years old. It belongs to the public. We pay our taxes for the parks and we have expectations when we go to a state park that it's clean, all the services are there." City Officials say if people stop coming to Tyler State Park it would hurt the local economy.
"Tyler State Park is currently the largest tourist attraction that we have in Smith County," said Tom Mullins, President of Tyler Economic Development Council. "They stay two or three nights, sometimes a week. They visit other communities. They come to Tyler. They eat at the restaurants. They might go to the movies. They might buys some goods and services." Dabney says he hopes the legislature understands this and gives parks the money they need.
"Parks are a very important piece of Texas and we not only want a park system, and we don't want it 49th in the nation, but we want a good park system," said Dabney. Dabney says he's not sure what parks would close if they didn't get the additional 85 million dollars. He says the one in East Texas most likely to close would be the Texas State Railroad because it's one of the most expensive to operate.