Texas state parks are rural economic engines, new research shows

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Houston, Texas – More than 8 million Texans, on average, have visited state parks each year since 2014. Last year, that number jumped to 10 million and could continue to rise as the population of the state will grow by nearly 10 million more people by and the Texas Bicentennial in 2036. And Texas

state parks have a powerful economic impact, especially in rural counties.

To understand the potential impact of this increased demand on the quality of life and local economies in Texas, Texas 2036 partnered with the Center for Public Finance at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy to produce the report, Invest in Texas: State Parks and Rural Economic Development.

Texas data and other states report that every dollar of public money spent on parks can generate between $4 and $12 in economic return. Investing in state parks by maintaining and improving existing facilities and increasing the number of state parks available to meet Texans’ growing demand for outdoor recreation will generate significant and measurable economic benefits for the state. state as a whole, but especially for local and rural economies.

“State parks attract people and businesses. They create jobs and grow local economies,” said Dr. Joyce Beebe, Fellow of the Center for Public Finance and author of the new report. “More people want to visit Texas state parks than ever before. If the state increases the number of state parks, the Texas economy will benefit — as well as the economies of local communities — and Texans will thank the legislature for the additional resources and activities.

In addition to maintaining existing facilities, new state parks would release pent-up demand. In 2019, TPWD unveiled a new reservation system to make it easier for visitors to purchase day use permits in advance, helping to reduce the number of turned away visitors. But reservations are still recommended months in advance, suggesting that additional parks are needed to meet current and future demand.

According to Economic Analysis Officeoutdoor recreation activities in Texas generated about $32 billion in economic activity in 2020 — or about 2% of Texas gross domestic product, consistent with the national average — and supported 300,000 jobs.

Dr. Beebe reports that between 2009 and 2019, rural counties with parks saw:

  • 6% more GDP growth;
  • a 4% higher population growth; and
  • 2% higher job growth than rural counties without state parks.

“While most Texans might think of recreation or outdoor activities when they think of parks, our study found that they are also drivers of economic development,” said John Hryhorchuk, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at Texas 2036. “Increasing the number of state parks could be a game-changer for rural communities by creating more opportunities for job growth and economic strength.”

Texas data and other states show that every dollar of public money spent on parks can generate an economic return of $4 to $12. States like Arizona, California and Colorado have started investing heavily in their state parks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

With the positive impact state parks have on local economies, it’s no surprise that Texans want lawmakers to invest in state parks. In 2019, 88% of Texas voters supported a constitutional amendment to dedicate sporting goods sales tax funds to state parks and historic sites. And last August, Texas 2036 Texas voter poll found that nearly 7 in 10 Texas voters supported using $1 billion — or about 6% of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act tax relief fund allocation — to build new state parks and upgrade existing parks.

To download the report, visit www.texas2036.org/investing-in-texas

About Texas 2036

Texas 2036 is a nonprofit organization developing long-term, data-driven strategies to ensure Texas thrives throughout our state’s bicentennial and beyond. We deliver nonpartisan ideas and modern solutions grounded in research and data on the issues that matter most to all Texans. For more information, visit www.texas2036.org.

About the Public Finance Center

The Center for Public Finance (CPF) at Rice University’s Baker Institute focuses on the economic effects of major US fiscal policies. Given the complexity of the US tax system and the unsustainable nature of current US tax and spending policies, the center examines the potential effects of various tax reforms on economic growth and income distribution. at inform policy makers, stakeholders and the general public. In addition, the CPF examines the challenges the country faces if policymakers continue to delay the implementation of solutions to these critical issues. CPF fellows actively participate in the policy-making process by advising various national government agencies, state and international governments, and multilateral development institutions, as well as various key individual decision makers. CPF Fellows regularly present their work at CPF-sponsored events, other public and private events, and in testimony before federal and state government committees.”

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