NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Anything dealing with Texas history was close to Dr. Frances "Ab" Abernethy's heart.
Last week, the Texas House recommended zero dollars to fund the Heritage Trails. Here is a reminder about this program and what the loss of funding could mean to this region.
On East Texas roadways, motorists see the Texas Forest Trail signs, but similar iconic blue signs are found all over the state. Forest Trail Director Marty Prince knows them all.
"Hill Country, Lakes, Plains, Pecos, Brazos, Independence, Forts," said Marty Prince, the director of the Texas Forest Trail Region.
The roadways are all part of the Heritage Trails which last week the House recommended receive $0. This means a $4 million potential loss in state funding.
"Those funds have been allocated in a different direction, so they're not available to us any longer, so this is the first time that we're asking for complete funding from the state instead of going through the grant process," Prince said.
The Texas Forest Trail Region promotes rural tourism in 35 counties. Publications, websites, and social media generate interest from thousands of tourists for towns all over East Texas.
"Last year the Forest Trail we estimated just our publications alone had a $1.9 million economic impact in East Texas," Prince said. "That's huge."
By Thursday, the Finance Committee has to be swayed to include Heritage Trails in the Senate Budget. Should it fail, Forest Trails has a contingency plan.
"Our organization has been very thrifty, but also we've been very successful, so we've been putting some money aside," Prince said. "We hope our program will continue. Again, it will have to change."
It could result in representation of only a portion of East Texas and not the entire region.
Time is running out to lobby for the Heritage Trails Program. Decisions could be made as early as Thursday. You can learn how to participate in an online petition at the Texas Heritage Trails Website.