AUSTIN, Texas — Since Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launched a statewide appeal in early December for donations to aid a financially strapped Texas State Parks system, more than $1 million has been raised.
In an update provided to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission this week, TPWD staff reported that since the awareness campaign’s launch on Dec. 6, donations to state parks have topped the $1 million mark, bolstered by three large contributions and smaller donations from more than 1,000 individuals.
“We’re off to a very promising start in what is just the first stage of what is an ongoing state park fundraising campaign,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “This shows that the people of Texas truly care about their state parks and want to see them stay open and accessible for all to enjoy.”
Two Texas-based nonprofit foundations accounted for the bulk of the more than $1 million in donations to the state parks general fund, with $500,000 coming from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation board of trustees and $250,000 from the T.L.L Temple Foundation. Online donations from 980 donors through Jan. 16 totaled $104,135, with the average donation being $106. Mail-in donations reached $58,000 and state park offices reported onsite donations approaching $12,000, more than twice the amount from the same period year ago.
In the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature authorized a budget strategy for Texas State Parks that included an additional $3 million in revenue from state park fees and $1.6 million from the optional vehicle registration donation program that officially took effect Jan. 1, for a total of $4.6 million. TPWD’s fiscal year 2012 budget included that contingent amount, but the revenues have not been realized due to the record drought, heat and devastating wildfires that reduced park visitation.
According to the report to the commission, TPWD has just implemented a mechanism so that boaters can also make a donation when registering a boat. As of Jan 26, more than $69,000 has been donated through the motor vehicle registration option.
In addition, the commission learned that an e-mail appeal this week from TPWD’s executive director to almost 185,000 state park visitors generated in a 24-hour period another 576 individual donations totaling more than $32,000, bringing the state park donations total to more than $1 million.
The commission acknowledged a number of donations benefiting wildfire-damaged Bastrop State Park, including a $100,000 gift from Meadows Foundations, Inc. to replace park vehicles and capital equipment.
TPWD and the TPW Foundation continue to aggressively seek donations from individuals, foundations, non-profit organizations and corporate partners who recognize the importance of Texas State Parks and to work with media and other partners to promote visitation to state parks and awareness of the fundraising effort. Revenue from park visitation funds about half of the state park system’s $69 million annual operating budget.
Park officials continue to stress three ways Texans can help keep state parks open:
Go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks to make a tax-deductible donation.
Make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration. You also can make a $5 donation when you renew your boat registration.
Finally, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks often with family and friends.
Unlike earlier in the year when record heat kept visitors inside, parks are now experiencing cooler weather, parks are greening up after recent rains, and most importantly for many overnight visitors, campfires are being allowed again in most state parks. Check each park’s web page online for the latest information.
To learn about the various Texas State Parks and their offerings, or to make online camping reservations, visit www.texasstateparks.org. Or call state park information at 1.800.792.1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
SOURCE: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department