Video -- Over 150 people gathered in the courtroom of the Old Blanco County Courthouse on Tuesday, February 22, to find out more about the fate of Blanco State Park. The Citizens for Blanco State Park group, founded by Jo Nell Haas, hosted the meeting to find out more about what the state plans to do with the park.
Jo Nell Haas began the meeting by introducing State Representative Jason Isaac, whose district includes Blanco County. Rep. Isaac spoke about the need to keep Blanco State Park open.
After Isaac, Scott Boruff, executive director of operations for Texas Parks and Wildlife spoke about the challenges the department faces, relating that they are determined to keep Blanco State Park open. TPWD would prefer to make its own cuts rather than specific cuts required by the budget. Director of State Parks Brent Leisure also spoke, as did Chamber of Commerce vice president Marcy Westcott and city council member Bobby McClung. Connie Barron discussed the legislative issues and how a delegation would go to Austin to speak in support of the park.
Haas read from a letter that Senator Troy Fraser had sent to Steve Ogden, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, with his recommendation that Blanco State Park not be closed, but, at the very least be removed from the targeted closure list.
The group is seeking volunteers to help contact legislators, spread the word about keeping Blanco State Park, and coming up with ideas for fundraising. To get involved, contact Jo Nell Haas at 830-833-5695 or visit the Citizens for Blanco State Park Facebook group.
Since the meeting, the groups have leapt into action to campaign for the state park.
"Thanks to Rep. Isaac and all the citizens here in Blanco," reported Connie Barron, head of the legislative committee, "we had a very successful hearing in Austin last week."
The Texas House Appropriations subcommittee on Article VI – natural resources – had supported the provision in the proposed budget to offer seven local state parks, including Blanco’s, to local governments or close them, Barron said.
"We had folks call or email the members of the subcommittee asking that they reconsider and save BSP," she continued. "As we met with the policy staff for the members, they were already aware of the issue because of the large number of contacts that had been made. We were able to convince them that BSP was not just a small, run-down complex but rather a vital park that serves as a major economic driver for Blanco."
"On Friday morning, the subcommittee reported to the whole Appropriations Committee and specifically asked that TPWD find funds elsewhere in the budget to spare Blanco State Park from closure. Rep. Isaac was present throughout the hearing, working the members and answering questions. The final report leaves the transfer/closure as a possible strategy, but not a directive. This is hugely important."
The Citizens for Blanco State Park will gather again in Austin as the Senate takes a look at their proposed budget.
"A delegation will travel to Austin on Thursday to visit senators and testify at the Senate Finance hearing regarding the same provision in the senate budget," Barron said. "Hopefully we will be as successful there. We will ask folks to contact the members of the Senate Finance committee on Thursday to support our testimony."