Texas may seek to transfer seven state parks to local ownership, and park fees are likely to rise in response to the state's budget crisis.
Another fiscal casualty could be a long-planned park in the Fort Worth region, said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. Department officials had hoped to buy land for the park this year.
The agency will have to "fundamentally realign" itself to handle a 25 percent funding cut -- $162 million -- in fiscal 2012 and 2013, Smith said. The cuts come as lawmakers face a budget shortfall of $12 billion to $27 billion. "Education, law enforcement, public health -- all of us are facing cuts," Smith said. With fewer resources and fewer positions, "to do our jobs ... we have to look for new ways to do business."
Under early versions of proposed Texas House and Senate budgets, the seven state parks would be transferred to local governments that agree to shoulder the expense, Smith said.
"The Legislature has not called for parks to be closed. They have assumed we will transfer seven parks to local communities to own and steward them," Smith said.
"The foundational assumption is that these parks would be transferred to local communities where they will be continued to operate. We haven't verified if that's even possible," he said.
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