Grapevine park advocates call on Legislature to restore funding

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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City and state park advocates are calling on the Legislature and budget negotiators to restore funding for local park programs.

At a news conference held April 29 at Bear Creek Park, park advocates said local parks will get zero funding under the latest version of the 2014-15 state budget plan. At issue is Senate Bill 1, the appropriations bill that establishes the state budget for the next two years.

“Funds in the grant program were eliminated during the 82nd Legislature and have not been reinstated,” said Doug Evans, the city’s Parks & Recreation department director. “It is our hope that the Legislators will see a great benefit in the grant program and restore the funding.

Grapevine has received several grants in the past from the program for park development,” Evans said, “including the totally universally accessible Casey’s Clubhouse” at Dove Park.

“Families that live in cities that are able to provide community swimming pools for the betterment of physical health and social interaction are happier and higher functioning citizens,” he said. “To be able to enjoy swimming at the neighborhood swimming pool, view fireworks displays in parks and enjoy various recreation programs provides opportunities for families to connect, interact and share memory-making experiences.”

State grants have played a critical role in developing parks since 1979, Evans said.

“We ask that the Legislature provide money for our local parks so that we are able to build stronger communities,” he said.

In 2011, the Legislature suspended funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Park Grant Programs, which provided matching funds assistance to local governments for the acquisition and development of local park and recreation sites, facility development and outreach programs.

In the past, the grants have been funded by dedicated revenues from sporting goods sales taxes, city officials said. They said Senate Bill 1 restores much of the funding for state parks, but it places the local parks grant program as a second priority.

Although the local parks grant program currently is not funded, it could be added by a conference committee of Senate and House budget negotiators, proponents said. That committee has not been named.

“Our local parks are supposed to be funded in part from sales taxes on sporting goods, but the Legislature is choosing once again to withhold this funding,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, a statewide citizen-funded advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces. “Our state is growing by leaps and bounds, and we need to keep up with the demand for parks, playgrounds and swimming pools. To attract talented workers for our growing economy, we need to ensure a strong quality of life.”

Since 1979, Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Park Grant Programs have invested more than $390.2 million grant dollars to 1,630 projects throughout the state through matching funds. The money has been used to provide neighborhood parks, recreation and conservation experiences for Texans, city officials said.

City officials said they received a $416,800 Texas Recreation and Parks Account grant in 1993 to develop Bear Creek Park, which included two baseball/softball fields, a disc golf course and hike and bike trails.

The parks’ advocates cited many benefits of local parks, including offering resources for health and exercise that are often more affordable alternatives to promoting healthy living and reducing soaring healthcare costs; protecting water resources and bettering air quality; and increasing local tax revenue due to tourism and special events.

“Texas children and their families deserve thriving neighborhood parks,” said Grapevine Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks, who spoke at the news conference. “Parks bring our communities together and help us stay healthy. It’s time for the state to invest in local parks.”

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367

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