Photos by Roy Hamric A Big Thicket State Park To Dolph Briscoe, Bill Hobby, John Hill, and Bill Clayton Gentlemen: This open letter is addressed to you as the highest executive and legislative officers in the state of Texas. It is an appeal for the creation of state recreational parks in the Big Thicket. State parks are badly needed in the Big Thicket, both for recreation and to save some of the most treasured ecological gems in the area, originally recommended for inclusion in the park as among the choicest areas left for plant species survival. Unfortunately, some of these choicest areas were left out of the compromise bill passed by Congress in 1974 to create a Big Thicket National Preserve of 84,550 acres. The last several presidents of the Big Thicket Association have appeared before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission appealing for the creation of state parks in the Big Thicket area. I followed them as president with an appeal in 1976. To date, the Parks and Wildlife Commission has turned a deaf ear to all appeals from all groups for any state parks in the Big Thicket area. Each time officers of the Big Thicket Association recommend some appropriate area on Village Creek, or some area which was in the original 35,000 acre “String of Pearls” proposed National Park Monument, the lumber company cutters move in and destroy at least parts of it, utterly devastating the land, clearcutting it \(which means destroying everything that had grown there, planting it with chemicals so that nothing but pine could grow, and forever denying its use for park sites for the people of Texas. Now this has been done with great diligence along Village Creek, the most wonderful creek for tourism in the park. Now an oil company is planning to destroy the Giant Palmetto Unit, one of the most spectacular of all units in the area, but left out, strangely enough, of the Big Thicket National Preserve by the Congress in creating the preserve. The oil company is planning to turn it into rice farms. Those who have been making the greatest fortunes from the Big Thicket area in the past two decades have been its greatest destroyers, and the interests most opposed to seeing any reasonable part of the Big Thicket preserved for posterity. Bernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board P.O. Box 208, Waco, Texas 76703 Nor is the utter neglect and spurning of efforts to create state parks in the Big Thicket area the only neglect of state parks evident from the actions of the present Parks and Wildlife Commission. It seems to be a set practice of the present commission to neglect state parks. We now have the biggest state budget in history at $7.5 billion a year. State Comptroller Bob Bullock’s 1977 annual financial report for the state reveals that despite the great cost increases going on for most sections of state government, the Parks and Wildlife Commission expenditures declined from 1976 to 1977 from $59 million to $47 million a year, a drop of 19.9 percent. During the same period of time, state highway and public transportation expenses went up by 537.6 percent and public welfare expenses went up by 769.5 percent. In the same year the Texas Historical Commission expenditures went up by 19.6 percent and Texas Tourist Development Agency expenditures by 11.3 percent. Broken down by function of expenditures, you will note that the expenses for improvements of parks and monuments in the state declined in one year by 19.5 percent. All of this shows that the State Parks and Wildlife Commission has abdicated its functions, insofar as acquisition or enlargement of state parks is concerned. It is said to be doing fine by wildlife, but it is a turned backward board insofar as state parks are concerned. It should either be legislated out of existence under the Sundown Provision and a new board be created which will give the people of Texas some representation in the parks field, or else the parks function taken away from this Wildlife Commission, and let them manage wildlife, but put people with a vision for the future in charge of the state parks system in Texas. The present attitude of the State Parks and Wildlife Commission is wholly in denigration of the great history Texas has had in the past in cooperating to create great national parks in Texas, and indeed in expanding the state parks program. The state of Texas bought the Big Bend National Park lands of 708,118 acres and gave all of it to the federal government, thereby creating a national park by virtue of the state’s action. The state of Texas donated 38,304 acres of both submerged lands and beaches on Padre Island, and placed it in the Padre Island National Recreational Park. The state of Texas bought the minerals in 45,171 acres of land in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in order that the park be established by the federal government. The state of Texas has done its part for the other three national parks and preserves in Texas, but has done absolutely nothing for this Big Thicket National Preserve or state parks to complement it. Nothing except by keeping its Parks and Wildlife Commission’s policy of secrecy and quietness and donothingism, and thereby encouraging the destruction of the Big Thicket. By contrast with the other states, the state park record of Texas is pitiful. The state parks in the state of New York contain 23 times as much acreage as those in Texas. California has eight times as much acreage in its state parks as does Texas. The state parks systems of Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania each contain about three times as much acreage as Texas’, while the state parks systems of Mas,sachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey each contain over twice as much acreage as Texas’. Alaska has vast national forests, national parks, and national reserves, yet its state park system contains 13 times as nuch acreage as Texas’. The U.S. National Parks and Preserves in Texas contain ten times as much as the state parks. Isn’t it a sad commentary on the lack of vision of the Texas government that we must depend on the federal government to come into Texas to create parks for our people? I appeal to you, as the highest executive and legislative officers in the state of Texas, to lift Texas out of this backward position concerning its state parks. Start with the Big Thicket where some of the most tragically endangered biological gems in the United States are being ruthlessly destroyed. Create state parks there, but do not stop there. Build us a state park system that is worthy of the richest state in the union in natural resources, the second in the union in size, the third in population, and growing in wealth and population very rapidly. There is an increasing need for a system of state parks for use by Texans of this generation and of coming generations, as more and more open lands are being demanded for residences, highways, airports, and many other uses which destroy the surface growth and impoverish Texas of its natural flora and fauna forever. Ralph W. Yarborough President, Big Thicket Association American Income Life Insurance Company THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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