Repositioning Texas State Parks
Keywords:economic impact, state parks, tourism
AbstractIn many instances, the original rationale justifying the establishment of state park systems involved their contributions to economic development. In Texas, as in other jurisdictions, this rationale has not been documented and subsequently has been disregarded or forgotten. Consequently, the state parks now are viewed by most elected officials as a discretionary service and, thus, are subjected to disproportionately large funding cuts in times of economic downturns.This reports the approach used by state park advocates in Texas to reestablish the position in elected officials’ minds that state parks are potential economic engines. Three strategies were used. First, the economic impact of visitors to 37 Texas state parks on the counties in which those parks were located was studied. In presenting the results, the State’s investment in the parks was positioned as seed money which was highly leveraged to generate substantial gains in income for residents in those counties. It was also pointed out that parks are analogous to retail stores in that providing a facility is no guarantee of economic success. Economic success is dependent on what happens inside the facility. Like a retail store, a park is likely to be economically successful only if the state invests in attractive, popular products and services inside the facility.The second strategy was to establish the statewide economic contribution of state parks by evaluating their role in attracting tourists to Texas. It was concluded that a strong case could be made for state parks being the primary engine of tourism in Texas. Since tourism is one of the top five industries in the state, and Texas is ranked second only to California among all states in tourism, this role has obvious economic implications.The final strategy was to estimate the contribution to the state’s treasury that accrued from the sales tax levied on recreation and sporting equipment. This recognizes that these sales taxes are to some extent dependent on the availability of park facilities at which the equipment can be used.
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