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TEXAS STATE PARKS

Natural Economic Assets

Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso County, Texas

STATE PARK PROFILES

Franklin Mountains State
Park El Paso County

Big Bend Region

Franklin Mountains State Park, opened in 1987, is nestled against the combined bright lights of the twin cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Franklin Mountains is the largest recognized urban park in the United States at 24,247 acres.

The urban setting provides a scenic backdrop to the park area itself, and the occasional cloud cover and the periods of dawn and dusk create dramatic vistas. The Franklin Mountains, the largest mountain range in Texas, are the southernmost end of the Rocky Mountains and are set against beautiful desert landscapes. The weather in El Paso and the surrounding area provides a year-round warm climate for all who live there and visit.

In fiscal 2007, the park saw almost 50,000 visitors

The state formally acquired Franklin Mountains in 1979 to protect the mountains from encroaching urban development.1 The park features the Wyler Aerial Tramway, a gondola system also operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that provides a majestic view of the surrounding area at a height of 5,632 feet.2 The park offers 44 picnic sites and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, walking tours and cave exploration. Horseback riding trails are in development. The park also features many opportunities for birding. It is part of the central flyway for migratory birds traveling between Mexico, through Texas and into the Mountain West.3

According to Cesar Mendez, Franklin Mountains’ superintendent, nearly 90 percent of park visitors are from the local area. Visitation and revenues have increased this year, he adds. Increased park access and expanded hiking trails have allowed more families, school groups and local organizations to visit the park this year than last.4 In fiscal 2007, the park saw almost 50,000 visitors, and almost all of these were day users.5 For 2007, Franklin Mountains’ general operating expenses totaled $242,352. Park revenues totaled $57,266, resulting in an operating deficit of $185,086.6

Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso County, Texas

This year Franklin Mountains saw an increase in appropriations from the Legislature for park services, including an increase in staff from five to 10.5 FTEs. Visitors to the park feel secure knowing staff are out on the trails, Mendez says.

Park officials team up for events with many local entities. The park works with the El Paso Zoo as an outreach opportunity to teach conservation methods and practices to schoolchildren. Park officials also host joint events with staff of the El Paso Museum of Archeology to raise funds for the museum, which does not charge an entrance fee.7

According to Richard Dayoub, president and CEO of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, the park “contributes to the quality of life of the surrounding area.” As the park is no less than 15 to 20 minutes away from surrounding residential areas, many local residents take the opportunity to use its trails on a regular basis. The amenities and conspicuous scenic beauty of the park attracts businesses searching for a high quality of life for employees and families.8

The Franklin Mountains’ sister park, Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, situated some 30 minutes away, attracts international travelers and is widely recognized as one of the best sites in the world for “bouldering,” a challenging variation of mountain climbing without safety ropes. In fiscal 2007, Hueco Tanks had 23,286 visitors.9

Scott Culver of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, a coalition of community organizations with equal interest in the park’s continued history and preservation, states there are indirect financial benefits for several industries associated with Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks. This includes retailers in sporting goods and recreational services, such as mountain climbing equipment, bicycling equipment and horseback riding services. Some of the major bicycle shops in the area include Crazy Cat Cyclery and The Bicycle Company. These two companies directly benefit from riders who use the world-class mountain biking trails that wander through the park and the surrounding area.

Wyler Ariel Tramway contributed $734,649 in sales and $415,973 in personal income to El Paso County in 2006. Hueco Tanks State Historic Site contributed $582,207 in sales and $331,774 in personal income to El Paso County in 2006.

Other industries that indirectly benefit include the feed industry, flight schools and flight services and hotels and restaurants in close proximity to the parks. The Coalition hosts the annual Poppies Celebration to draw new funds to support further protection of areas surrounding the park. Each year the celebration brings some 2,000 people to the area, including local artists and organizations whose activities support the park.10

Hueco Tanks’ fiscal 2007 revenues were $124,969 against operating expenses of $277,578, resulting in a net deficit of $102,609. The Wyler Aerial Tramway earned $249,777 the same year, against operating expenses of $428,846, resulting in a net deficit of $169,069.11

According to a study conducted by John Crompton of Texas A&M University, Wyler Ariel Tramway contributed $734,649 in sales and $415,973 in personal income to El Paso County in 2006. The Tramway also created 11.9 jobs and generated $3,673 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year. Hueco Tanks State Historic Site contributed $582,207 in sales and $331,774 in personal income to El Paso County in 2006. The park also created 9.4 jobs and generated $2,911 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year. The study did not include Franklin Mountains State Park.12

Summary Economic Impacts
Hueco Tanks State Historic Site and Wyler Aerial Tramway, El Paso County

2006 County Sales 2006 County Resident Income 2006 County Employment (Full-Time Equivalent) 2006 County Sales Tax Generated
$1,316,856 $747,747 21.3 $6,584

Source: Texas A&M University.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)

Revenues Operating Expenses* Net Income
$432,012 $898,776 ($466,764)

* Includes salaries, operating expenses and minor (non-capital) repair.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Endnotes

  • 1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Franklin Mountains State Park,” p. 1, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/franklin/. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
  • 2 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Wyler Aerial Tramway,” p. 2, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/wyler_aerial_tram/. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
  • 3 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Franklin Mountains State Park,” pp. 2-5.
  • 4 Interview with Cesar Mendez, superintendent, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 5 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “State Park Sites, Acreage, and Visits,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations.
  • 6 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Revenue Less Operating Costs, FY 2006-2007.”
  • 7 Interview with Cesar Mendez, superintendent, Franklin Mountains State Park.
  • 8 Interview with Richard Dayoub, president and CEO, Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, El Paso, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 9 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Hueco Tanks State Historic Site,” pp. 1-3, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/hueco_tanks/. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
  • 10 Interview with Scott Culver, Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, El Paso, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 11 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Revenue Less Operating Costs, FY 2006-2007.”
  • 12 Texas Coalition for Conservation, The Economic Contributions of Texas State Parks in FY 2006, by John L. Crompton and Juddson Culpepper, Texas A&M University, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences (Austin, Texas, December 2006), http://rptsweb.tamu.edu/faculty/Crompton/Crompton/Articles/3.10.pdf. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
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