State Parks Advisory Committee To Seek Funding Options

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453,

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AUSTIN, Texas — A new Texas State Parks Advisory Committee* has been appointed to explore several issues facing the state park system. The committee will hold its first, organizational meeting from 1-4 p.m. April 13 at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department headquarters in Austin.

TPW Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons appointed the committee and has asked for recommendations on four topics, including exploring funding options for the state park system. The committee is also charged with considering any existing units of the state park system that might be operated by more appropriate entities; the role of public-private partnerships in parks, including concessions, sponsorships and incentive based solutions; and options to accomplish goals for state and local parks in the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, the 10-year operating plan for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The new committee includes former state legislators and leaders of state agencies and conservation and tourism organizations. (See list below.)

“The formation of this committee has been in the works for many months; I deliberately chose a broad cross section of citizens, taking the time to speak with each one and hear their thoughts on the importance of our state parks,” said Joseph Fitzsimons of San Antonio, TPW Commission chairman. “It is an impressive group of people with integrity, experience, a predilection for practical results and a demonstrated passion for state parks. However, those of us who love parks should by no means assume that all our problems will be solved because this group is now in place. A great state deserves great state parks, and it will take all Texans who care working together to achieve that goal.”

The state park system began in 1923 when Gov. Pat Neff established the State Parks Board. It has since grown to a system of 114 sites representing important pieces of Texas's natural and cultural history. Each year, state parks attract an estimated 10 million visitors. Tourism is one of the largest components of the Texas economy and the state park system is a keystone element, generating more than $1.2 billion in economic benefits annually, mostly in rural Texas. This adds to the obvious value of inexpensive, nearby family oriented recreational activities and places to learn about the diverse history and landscape of Texas. **

Advisory committee members include:

  • Al Henry of Houston. Human services consultant and owner of the East Fork Ranch in Tyler. An advisory director at Comerica Bank Texas. Member of the State Bar of Texas, the American Quarter House Association and the Smith County Farm Bureau. Past Vice-Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
  • George Bristol of Austin. President, Texas Coalition for Conservation, an umbrella coalition of diverse groups formed to support funding for Texas parks; former member, National Parks Foundation; steering committee, Texas Farms & Ranch Lands Conservation Program.
  • Ann Lents of Houston, President, Center for Houston’s Future. President, Park People (Houston); President & CEO, Center for Houston’s Future, and serves on the Committees of Scenic America and Houston Wilderness. Earlier in her career, Lents was a partner with Vinson & Elkins and practices law in the areas of antitrust, securities, and commercial trial law.
  • Sandy McNab. San Antonio businessman, interested in historic resources. Past service to the Rock Art Foundation and Witte Museum in San Antonio.
  • Carter Smith of San Antonio, Director, Nature Conservancy of Texas. Former TPWD staff member.
  • Andrew Sansom, Executive Director, River Systems Institute at Texas State University in San Marcos. Former Executive Director, of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; former Executive Director of Nature Conservancy of Texas.
  • Clyde Alexander of San Antonio. Former State Representative from Athens, served on the Recreational Resources Committee.
  • John Montford of San Antonio. Former State Senator who cosponsored legislation that dedicated a portion of the state sales tax attributed to sporting goods as a state park funding source, former Texas Tech Chancellor. Currently Senior Vice President for Western Region Legislative and Regional Affairs with AT&T.***
  • Dianne Dies Schoch of Austin. Extensive fundraising experience with the University of Texas and Austin area nonprofits. Long involvement in East Texas conservation efforts.
  • Brad Locker of Brownwood. Sporting goods manufacturer representative. Chair, Brown County Republican Party.
  • Jeff Rogers of Dallas. Partner in Hampton/Rogers, a media relations and production company.
  • Hector Gutierrez of Austin. Managing Director of HILLCO PARTNERS, he is responsible for all business development and assists with legislative strategies for this Austin lobbying firm. Gutierrez was a senior marketing and sales executive for SBC Corporation for 19 years and served as then-Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry’s Senior Advisor for Legislative Affairs during the 1999 session.
  • Paul Serff of Austin. President, Texas Travel Association, as well as President of the Texas Festivals and Events Association and Texas Nature Tourism Council. He is also a committee member of the Texas Industry Association of America (TIA) and serves on its Legislative Affairs Committee and as vice-chairman of the Tourism Works for America Committee.
  • Beth McDonald of Austin. President, Texans for State Parks, a coalition of individuals and groups working to enhance the state park system.
  • David Woodcock of College Station. Texas A&M University architecture professor with a history of involvement with Texas historic sites
  • Ann Hamilton of Houston. Houston Endowment general manager
  • Michael Massey of Richardson. City of Richardson parks and recreation director

* Correction, Aug. 1, 2006: The original version of this news release incorrectly referred to the group as a board. It is a committee. All references in the news release have been changed. (Return to corrected item.)

** Correction, Aug. 1, 2006: This paragraph has been edited to correctly describe the start of the state park system and its current number of sites. (Return to corrected item.)

*** Correction, Aug. 1, 2006: This item has been edited for accuracy. (Return to corrected item.)