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February 2nd, 2012, 07:56 PM
Tompkins: Donations bring some relief to state parks
Houston Chronicle http://analytics.apnewsregistry.com/analytics/v2/image.svc/chron/RWS/chron.com/CVI/7/CAI/2672838/E/prod/AT/HL Copyright 2012 Houston Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. (http://www.fishwestend.com/forum/admincp/#license-4f2b2f98f3d22) Updated 07:59 p.m., Sunday, January 22, 2012
More than five weeks since Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials launched an appeal for donations to support a state park system facing financial crisis, the agency has collected more than $900,000 from a mix of private funds and foundations. Texas residents chipped in almost $60,000 through a Legislature-created program allowing a person renewing a motor vehicle registration to add a donation of $5 or more for state park operational funding. The unusual appeal for direct, private financial aid to state parks, which TPWD announced Dec. 6, was triggered by a cascade of man-made and natural events that left the parks system facing the prospect of a multi-million-dollar funding shortfall that could force further cutbacks in a parks staff already pared by layoffs this past year, fewer park services and a reduction in park operating hours or even closure of some parks. Revenue generated through park-use fees - entry, camping, etc. - paid by park visitors was predicted to produce about half of the park division's $69 million in spending authority allowed by the Legislature. [...] the Legislature included in its parks division appropriations $1.6 million it projected TPWD would annually receive from the new program allowing voluntary contributions made by Texans registering motor vehicles. Even if Texans registering their cars and trucks added a park donation at the rate the Legislature projected, the program would miss its goal by more than a half-million dollars, leaving TPWD to make up that deficit with spending cuts.

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