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Jan/Feb 2012 cover image
From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

It’s that time of year again — the annual launch of “the lists.” You know the ones I am referring to, the ones born from renewed vows of introspection, altruistic pledges to family, friends and colleagues, and, of course, boundless commitments to one’s own betterment that have all the makings of a great self-help book.

If you are anything like me, you’ve penned a rather long list of them, past and present. New Year’s resolutions, that is.

Some of mine are more ambitious than others. Most are the usual array of things I grapple with year in and year out — more time with family, fewer nights at the office; more exercise, fewer excuses; more patience, less hurry; more giving, less receiving; more time afield, less time dreaming I was afield. You get the drift.

Here’s one at the top of my list that I hope won’t fall on deaf ears, yours or mine — helping your state parks. You may perceive that to be a pretty ordinary request coming from me. But here’s the deal: State parks — your state parks — need our help now more than ever.

There’s a rather simple truism in the business of outdoor recreation. When the weather is good, so, too, is visitation at the parks. And that matters because revenue collected from park visitors accounts for about half of the funds needed to operate and care for your state parks. So, when the weather takes a turn for the worse, particularly for protracted periods of time, park revenues and, hence, state parks suffer.

Over the past year, Mother Nature has been hard on our state parks, real hard. Record droughts and fires and oppressive summer temperatures have kept park enthusiasts indoors rather than outdoors. That downward trend in outdoor recreation, which shows little sign of slowing, presents a daunting and very real fiscal challenge for a park system already stretched mighty thin by diminished state budgets.

So, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, a time when we need all the help we can get if we are to keep your state parks open and operating in the current year for the use and enjoyment of Texas families. Fortunately, for all of us who care about these special treasures, there are simple ways we can help. Here are three of them:

1. Take your family and friends to visit state parks as often as you can.

2. Beginning in January, take advantage of an opportunity to make a donation of $5 or more to state parks when you renew your vehicle registration. I hope you will do so.

3. Visit our website at www.texasstateparks.org/howtohelp, and consider making a donation specifically to support your state parks.

Noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns heralded national parks as “America’s Best Idea.” If you’ve scrambled around the canyons in Palo Duro, chased the white bass at Colorado Bend, hiked amid the pines at Daingerfield, splashed in the healing waters of the Frio at Garner, canoed down Village Creek, taken in the fall color at Lost Maples, basked in the bird diversity at Bentsen, marveled at the pictographs at Seminole Canyon or combed the shores of Mustang Island, you know that Texas’ state parks system is a mighty close second.

Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. This year, your parks need your help more than ever.

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