AUSTIN (KXAN) - The state budget battle wages on and now local parks are caught in the crossfire. Those fighting for the parks and their programs gathered on the Capitol lawn Thursday to talk about funding.
Drastic cuts in 2011 limited services at state and local parks. The current bill restores the funding to state parks but money for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Parks Grant Programs still isn't funded.
Without funding, grant recipients like the Texas River School will have to go without.
The Texas River School offers underserved children the chance to experience Austin's waterways.
"These are people who haven't had this experience before and it's like taking them to the moon," said Joe Kendall with the Texas River School. "It's so different for them. They've never been in a boat before. They've never been on the river before. A lot of them have never been to Barton Springs. A lot of them can't swim. This is an extreme adventure for them."
The I Live Here, I Give Here Amplify Austin campaign provided money to run the river adventures this year. But, the local parks grant program meant money for equipment to expand the school.
"We wouldn't be here talking if it wasn't for them," Kendall said. "These canoes wouldn't be here. The gear I've got over there, it's all so important. Without their support, we're not going to be able to do what we've done in the past."
There is still a chance funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Park Grant Program could be added to the bill. Texas Parks and Wildlife is asking for $15.5 million over the next two years. That's half of what it's received in the past.
Advocates for the parks say the money is already there, it's just going to the wrong area.
"Our parks are supposed to be funded in part by sales tax on sporting goods," said Luke Metzger of Environment Texas. "But for too long, the Legislature has raided that fund and used it for other purposes."
The sporting goods sales tax brings in around $260 million over a two year period.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Parks Grant Programs started in 1979. More than $390 million has gone to fund more than 1,600 projects statewide.
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