Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Gateway Park on Tuesday to announce that $43 million will be provided for parks nationwide and $2.47 million for Texas from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, in a push to get the fund reauthorized by a divided Congress.
The $900 million, 50-year-old fund, financed with oil and gas royalties, provides matching grants to state, county and local governments for parks and open-space projects. It is scheduled to expire in 2015.
“I’m here in Fort Worth for several reasons. One of them is, we need a little heat on the Land and Water Conservation Fund and you come to Texas to get a little heat,” Jewell joked to the crowd sitting in 90-degree weather outside Gateway Park’s recreational fields. “We certainly got that, although it’s not 100, so thank you.”
The audience included Councilmen Danny Scarth, Dennis Shingleton and Joel Burns, and Councilwoman-elect Ann Zadeh, as well as Catherine Nagel, executive director of the City Parks Alliance.
“I’m here because of Mayor Betsy Price. She has been a leader in this effort,” Jewell said, referring to Price’s involvement with Mayors for Parks, created by City Parks Alliance, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
“It says our cities need to be livable, and what makes them livable is not necessarily more roads and more buildings. It is a balance with green spaces, places for people to play,” Jewell said as kids from Camp Fort Worth, a summer day camp run by the city, played soccer, football and other games nearby.
Price has drawn national attention to the fund, proposing and passing a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June to support full funding of the parks and conservation effort.
Jewell visited Gateway Park to kick off a series of events around the country to urge community members to contact their congressional representatives about reinstating the fund.
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget calls for full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been fully funded only once in its history.
Less than half the money set aside for the fund has been used for land and water conservation. The rest has been redirected to the general Treasury and other uses.
Fort Worth has received about $2.7 million since the fund was created in 1965, including $805,000 to acquire Gateway Park. Other Fort Worth parks that have received fund money include Heritage Park downtown, Handley Park, Lake Como Park and the Trinity Trails.
Fort Worth has a five-year estimated need of $87.6 million for park infrastructure and improvements but will generate only 30 percent of that from a 2014 bond. The $292 million bond, which primarily pays for infrastructure, was approved by voters in May.