State Park struggles with funding
By LPR Staff
Once again this year, the Lockhart State Park is experiencing a budgeting shortfall that could cost the community a time-honored landmark.
During the 79th Legislature, funding cuts to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) caused the Department to re-evaluate budgeting needs for state parks. One of the resulti
ng cuts removed funding for seasonal employees at Lockhart State Park.
“Seasonal staff means the lifeguards,” said Lockhart State Park Manager Jay Hess when cuts were announced last year. “We won”t open the pool without the lifeguards because we don”t want to jeopardize the safety of our guests.”
Last year”s announcement set off both a political firestorm and a grassroots-level fundraising push. After about six weeks, TPWD agreed to match community fundraising up to $15,000, and the successful fundraising drive allowed the pool to open.
However, Hess announced recently that the total funds needed to operate the pool, some $31,000, are not available again this year.
“The budgets are set on a two-year cycle,” he said in late February. “They didn”t change anything for this year, so we”re still in the position of needing community support to fund the pool.”
When Hess made the original announcement, a staff member from State Representative Patrick Rose”s office noted Rose”s concern about the issue.
“Patrick thought that we got this taken care of last year,” said Mireya Zapata in February. “Because of the outpouring of community support for the pool, we”re going to do everything we can to make sure it stays open.”
Hess announced on Tuesday that TPWD would once again provide matching funds, but that the community would have to raise $15,000 again this year to safeguard the pool”s future.
Zapata was unavailable for comment on Wednesday morning.
According to Hess, the money needed to open the pool needs to be raised by late-April to allow ample time to hire and train lifeguards.
“It takes time to hire and train them,” he said. “And again this year, if we don”t have lifeguards, we won”t open the pool.”
The Lockhart State Park Pool originally opened in 1938 and has provided swimming lessons, water sports and recreation for generations of Lockhart and Caldwell County residents and visitors. The pool services approximately 6,900 guests per year.