NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - If you've bought any sporting goods in Texas over the last year, you can say you're helping the state park system.
East Texas News went out to Mission Tejas State Park, just west of Crockett, to view an example of the kind of work happening all over the state thanks to unprecedented amounts of state funding.
A quite forest provides a serene environment to pay homage to the first Spanish mission in Texas.
The 72-year-old park will have a new visitors center by the end of the year. It's among more than 80 state parks scheduled for capital repair projects thanks to long overdue funding established in 2015.
"House Bill 158 dedicated 94 percent of the state's sales tax on sporting goods for parks," said Tom Harvey, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "The other six-percent went to the Texas Historical Commission."
Texas Parks and Wildlife and other key players in the improvement projects led a media tour with the goal of creating awareness about the importance of continued state funding.
"One of the challenges we've had is if the funding goes up and down every two years, it's very difficult to plan and do these kinds of things," Harvey said.
The planning leads to ingenious efforts for all new construction.
"We're not going to just build buildings anymore," Patrick Vicknair, the project's manager. "We're going to build them smart, make them energy efficient, make them green."
Architect Allison Chambers lent an eye for detail.
"We were really sensitive to the park and the history," Chambers said. "Same of the early structures were log cabins in this area, so we really wanted to stay with the wood. There's also going to be really warm wood finishes on the interior. We're using the pine needles on the sidewalks outside to give it texture."
The changes will undoubtedly be noticed by visitors and with their support may influence legislators to continue providing the necessary funds to protect and improve Texas state parks.
Here's a fact that many people may not know. Almost all city and county parks across Texas were created, improved, or expanded through a grand program administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Click this link for a complete list of statewide park repair projects.