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Park Supporters Push for Restoration of State Grants

Legislature eliminated matching-grant program two years ago

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    Park supporters want state lawmakers to add $15.5 million per year to revive a matching-grant program that has helped build 1,630 projects around the state since 1979. (Published Monday, April 29, 2013)

    Texas park supporters are lobbying for a last -minute restoration of state spending for neighborhood park projects.

    Luke Metzger with the group Environment Texas said the matching-grant program that helped build 1,630 projects around the state since 1979 was eliminated from the state budget two years ago.

    "Two years later, we're in a much better situation," he said. "There's no need to once again eliminate the funding for the local parks grant program."

    For example, Bear Creek Park in Grapevine was built in 1993 with $416,000 from the grant program.

    The park has ball fields, trails with bridges over the creek and a popular disc golf course.

    Grapevine Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks said new parks like it would not be built as Texas grows without support from the matching-grant program.

    "We've gone without it for a couple of years," he said. "If we go without it again, it may be totally eliminated all together and just completely go by the wayside, and that would be such a travesty."

    Park supporters want state lawmakers to add $15.5 million per year to revive the program.

    Cities or counties that receive the competitive grants would have to provide an equal match in cash or construction labor and services.

    "Fifteen million is just a very small drop in the bucket," Wilbanks said.

    Lawmakers plan to finalize a new state budget for the next two years by next week, so there's little time left in the campaign for local parks.

    "It's a way to keep the youth involved, off the streets and involved in something that's contributing to quality of life," Wilbanks said.

    State lawmakers have already grappled with funding for state parks.

    The budget first put before them in January would have closed up to 20 state parks because of a lack of operating money.

    Visitors at Cedar Hill State Park Monday said that closing state parks would be terrible.

    "I don't understand how they're losing money when they're going up on the park passes every year," visitor David Brooks said.

    Lawmakers have since come up with a budget plan to keep the state parks open.

    "Where's the petition so I can sign it?" visitor Walter Rhim said. "I need to sign something that says I'm voting to keep it open."

    Metzger said a sales tax on sporting goods was to be devoted to state parks but lawmakers have used the money for other things.

    "Our population is set to double in the next few decades," he said. "We're not keeping up with the demand for park services."