This Election Day, voters in the Rio Grande Valley and across the state have a historic opportunity to invest in some of Texas’s most beloved treasures — our state parks and historical sites.
If you’re like me, you and your family probably have a tradition of enjoying the beautiful outdoors here in the Valley (especially now that the weather is finally cooling off!). Whether you go to Estero Llano Grande State Park down the street, or you take a road trip across the state, beautiful landscapes, fascinating history and a calm respite from the city await you and your family.
And as our cities grow and urbanize, it’s increasingly important to protect these parks and historic sites — and create more of them, so that our children have a place to enjoy the outdoors, appreciate the heritage of those who came before us and spend time with their own families someday.
This is why earlier this year, I worked with my colleagues in the Texas Legislature — both Democrats and Republicans — to pass legislation to establish a permanent source of funding for our state parks and historical sites. In fact, we felt so strongly about these spaces that we wanted to write it into the Texas Constitution — and that means that you, the voters, have to approve this measure, too.
And so, I encourage all Texans — in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond — to vote YES to Proposition 5 on the ballot. It’s a fiscally responsible solution that funds our great parks for generations to come. It requires absolutely no increase in taxes on businesses or families. Not now, not ever. (The measure simply requires that the Legislature spends the already-existing Sporting Goods Sales Tax for the purpose that it was originally intended.)
Republicans and Democrats, including me, have been working together on this because it’s a common-sense solution that all Texans can get behind, regardless of who you are or what you believe.
Put another way, this initiative is for everyone — just like the parks and historical sites themselves.
This opportunity couldn’t have come soon enough. The parks are in desperate need of upkeep and maintenance. To be more specific, there are more than 600 specific deferred maintenance related priorities at the state parks, estimated at more than $800 million.
At same time, the popularity of the parks and historical sites is surging. More than 10 million people now visit the parks each year, which is very exciting! In fact, it’s making a big impact in local economies. A recent study found that the parks generated more than $891 million in sales. That’s a lot of money, much of it supporting homegrown Texas businesses, especially in the tourism and travel industries.
With the dedicated stream of funding that Proposition 5 would provide, the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Historical Commission will be able to make long-term planning decisions and prepare to meet growing demand. And with five newstate parks slated to open soon, this couldn’t come at a better time.
Our parks and historical sites are a great investment — in our economy, in our heritage and in the future generations of our families. It’s time to give them what they deserve.
Let’s all get out and vote YES to Proposition 5.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column pictures tourists at the Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife)