Doctors Creek operations change for the better, but budget worries continue
From Staff and Wire Reports

July 24, 2006 - The Doctors Creek Unit on the Delta County side of Cooper Lake will resume opening to campers seven nights a week after months of closing three nights a week due to budget cuts, the state park's manager reported Saturday.

"Previously, the park was closed to campers on Sunday through Thursday nights due to budget cuts," according to an e-mail from Cooper Lake State Park Manager Rodney Franklin. "The addition of on-site law enforcement has made it possible to allow campers to stay overnight throughout the week."

Current funding and staffing levels do not allow for taking reservations, however, and all visitors are asked to use the honor pay box for fees.

The park was closed to weeknight camping earlier this year after the staff at the state park, which includes the South Sulphur State Park on the Hopkins County side of the lake, was downsized.

There has also been talk that Doctor's Creek could be closed or transferred to another entity. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials warned less than two weeks ago that 18 state parks may close if lawmakers don’t spare the struggling agency from budget cutbacks requested by Gov. Rick Perry.

Dozens of full-time jobs may also vanish and local parks would suffer $4 million in cutbacks if the department complies with Perry’s request for state agencies to trim budgets by 10 percent, executive director Robert Cook said July 14.

Agency officials say a tight budget has forced 100 positions to be eliminated or left unfilled and that aging equipment is deteriorating under a backlog of repairs.

Texas ranks 49th among the 50 states in per capita spending on parks. The agency’s current budget is $56 million, and its new appropriations request is due to lawmakers Aug. 16.

The agency’s advisory committee released a draft report July 14 that said the parks system needs another $100 million annually to maintain its current operations. The report states that the state park operating deficit is $6 million to $8 million annually.

‘‘Every day that passes without action leads to further deterioration of park infrastructure, loss of historic resources and dissatisfied customers,’’ according to the report.

Earlier this year, Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce President Bill Elliott warned that TP&WD was facing "some serious funding problems" that threatened the future of the state parks at Cooper Lake and urged residents to contact government officials to to voice their concern.

That contact information includes:

State Rep. Mark Homer's address is: 1849 Lamar Street, Paris, Texas 75460-1474, phone 903-784-0977. Senator Deuell's address is: 2500 Stonewall Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, phone 903-450-9797.

Commissioners of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Board can also be contacted regarding funding of the TP&W budget. They include:

- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimmons, Chairman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, 1920 Nacogdoches Street, Ste. 203, San Antonio, TX 78209; Fax: 210-828-5091;

- Donato D. Ramos, Vice-Chair, Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, P.O. Box 45111, Laredo, TX 78045-1111; Fax: 956-727-5884

- John D. Parker, Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, 121 West Laurel Ave., Lufkin, TX 75904-2961; Fax: 936-632-4503.

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