America's Best Idea - public parks - is also one of its most financially rewarding investments. By every measurement Texas parks have lived up to original expectations: to provide areas for renewal and recreation while at the same time generate significant economic benefits. Ten million visitors generate over $1 billion annually.
State parks' revenues pay for one-half of their budget - $35 million revenues in 2006. Added to the economic activity generated in the local communities, the return on investment is huge. That is the original purpose of our state parks: to keep Texans in Texas, spending their leisure-time money in local communities while attracting out-of-state tourists to.
Let's look at the much-discussed Texas State Railroad. Its 2006 budget was $2.1 million. Its revenues were $1 million. It lost $1 million, but it generated $6.6 million in sales and the impact on personal income was $4.4 million. It is not a loser; it is an investment winner.
That economic good news can evaporate if we allow our parks to degenerate, instead of generate. We must keep our parks attractive if they are to continue to attract.
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George L. Bristol is the founder and president/executive director of the Texas Coalition for Conservation. Mr. Bristol has more than 37 years experience in business and politics as a successful businessman, political organizer, fundraiser and lobbyist for a range of conservation-related organizations. His experience includes a six-year appointment to the National Parks Foundation Board of Directors by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt. He was named to the Texas Conservation Foundation by Governor Mark White in 1984 and chaired the Foundation until 1988. He presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Glacier National Park Fund and is Vice-Chairman of the Texas State Park Advisory Committee.