Getting our voices heard! March 3rd was an important day to make the trip into Austin to our State Capitol. Why? Because that was the day for the Senators on the State Finance Committee to hear witnesses present their cases regarding the looming budget cuts. Prior to this important meeting, Blanco citizens made the rounds of Senate offices that morning to make the case to save Blanco State Park. On this mission were Jo Nell Haas (Friends of Blanco State Park), Marcy Westcott (Blanco Chamber of Commerce), and Connie Barron, Wayne Gosnell and Karen Mangan (all from the Blanco Citizens Association). Janie Jones and Connie had lobbied the House side of the Capitol on an earlier trip. Our group came prepared with handouts, photographs and numerous talking points. Most senate staffers already knew about our park due to the many telephone calls and emails their Senators had received. We also dropped by the office of Representative Jason Isaac to thank him again for his support at our Town Hall meeting.
Our group met Scott Boruff, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, who was waiting for the Finance hearings to begin. If you were at the Town Hall meeting you will remember that Scott was the main speaker and is on our side.
The Finance Committee hearing started at 10:30am but it wasn’t until 1:30pm that Jo Nell and Marcy testified before the Senate Finance Committee regarding our park. Jo Nell spoke from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in Blanco and the importance of the park in her life. Marcy, representing the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, focused more on the financial aspects of having a State Park in our town. During the day, several senators expressed strong support for the state parks and even questioned the wisdom of the parks taking any cuts at all. Senator Seliger said “State Parks are the birthright of all Texans.”
At the end of the day, we felt good about the immediate future of Blanco State Park though we will monitor the legislation as it makes its way through the Texas Legislature to make sure the threat to the park does not resurface. Scott Boruff stressed to us, however, that Blanco should not slack up on its support to include ways of partnering with the park to increase attendance. Even though the axe may not fall this year, the future is never certain.