LUMBERTON - In Washington and all across the nation, talks center around the looming budget cuts, set to take effect Friday March 1. With $85 billion in across-the-board cuts, everything from airports, to defense spending, to education could be affected. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department could also take a hit. In the last legislative session, the department suffered a 20% cut in its funding, or $113 million. More than 100 park rangers and other staff lost their jobs. An estimated $285 million in annual revenue are brought in from tourists who visit state parks. KFDM spoke with a local park official to find out how the budget cuts could affect parks, right here in southeast Texas. There are nearly 100 state parks in Texas. One, just north of Beaumont. We took a trip to Village Creek State park this afternoon where the park mananger explained just how important nature is to our community. A peaceful breeze just before sunset Monday afternoon in Lumberton. A sight this man has seen for nearly two decades. Jerry Rashall runs Village Creek State Park. While he spends time here on these grounds, the fate of state park funding is up in the air. "We want to make sure we have enough money to operate the park here at Village Creek State Park." A concern because some parks in Texas are closed and will stay that way until park officials can find money to develop them. It's a topic state politicians are discussing in Austin during this legislative term. Rashall says it's an easy fix. "The biggest way people can help their state parks here in Texas is to go out and visit them." It takes about $200 thousand to run this park each year. Rashall says it brings in more than double that amount. Hiking; fishing; canoeing. "Get back to nature, get out, just get some peace of mind. Enjoy the bird calls and the sunsets and the frogs chirpping." Rashall believes it's time well-spent. Years he wouldn't trade for anything. "It's memories you can't replace any other way; sitting in front of a tv or video game. Getting out cooking hotdogs, smores over a campfire, sleeping out under the stars." About 50 thousand people visit Village Creek State Park each year. Besides state funding there are two other ways parks bring in money: private donors and a program in which drivers can donate five dollars when they renew their licenses.
Executive Director Carter Smith says, "We're encouraged by the legislative support shown in the initial budget proposals at this early stage of the session. Legislative leaders and members have made it clear they want to help. It's important to understand this is just the start of a long process."
State parks in financial trouble?
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KFDM provides local news, weather, sports, notices of events and items of interest in the community for Beaumont, Texas and nearby towns and communities in Southeast Texas, including Port Arthur, Orange, Vidor, Lumberton, Kountze, Silsbee, Woodville, Newton, Jasper, Nederland, Port Neches, Groves, Colmesneil, Bridge City, Orangefield, Crystal Beach, High Island, Sabine Pass, Hamshire, Fannett, Nome, China, Kirbyville, Buna, Sour Lake and Winnie.