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TEXAS STATE PARKS

Natural Economic Assets

Lost Maples State Natural Area in Bandera and Real Counties, Texas

STATE PARK PROFILES

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Bandera and Real Counties
Garner State Park
Uvalde County

Hill Country Region

Two of the best known and most popular state parks – Lost Maples in Bandera and Real counties and Garner in Uvalde County – share the rugged and scenic landscape of Texas that is laced with springs, creeks and rivers. Only 30 miles and a county line separate the two. Given the rural nature of the region, the parks benefit mutually from regional economic activity.

The 2,000-acre Garner State Park along the Frio River is the most popular camping destination in the state park system, with more than 300,000 visitors each year.

Lost Maples is famous for its trees that give the park its name. About 80,000 to 90,000 visitors each year marvel at the Uvalde bigtooth maples, which are descended from Ice Age survivors that were “lost” among the steep limestone canyons and mossy, spring-fed creeks of the Sabinal River. Hikers can explore 11 miles of trails among the park’s 2,174 acres and perhaps see endangered black-capped vireos or golden-cheeked warblers. The spring and fall migration seasons bring birds of every variety, making the park a marvelous destination for birdwatchers from the U.S., Europe and Asia. And what would fall be without vivid leaves of red and gold throughout the park’s canyons?1

The 2,029-acre Garner State Park along the Frio River is the most popular camping destination in the state park system, with more than 300,000 visitors each year. Families proudly display flags at their campsites indicating that they have been coming to Garner for generations. More than 70 percent of visitors stay overnight, more than any other park in the state.2 Garner also boasts cabins and a dance pavilion built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Nightly dances, held since the CCC workers began inviting locals out to the park, draw visitors from the surrounding area.3

Garner State Park in Uvalde County, Texas

The economic vitality of Garner, and to a much lesser extent Lost Maples, contributes significantly to the economic activity of the region. Tom Austin, Uvalde’s economic development director, says Uvalde was founded at the crossroads of the two longest highways in the country, U.S. 83 and U.S. 90. Because of that, Uvalde and the surrounding area depend on truck and car traffic and tourism.

“Tourism is a big deal to us,” Austin says. “And it’s probably a lot larger than we realize.”

The economic vitality of Garner, and to a much lesser extent Lost Maples, contributes significantly to the economic activity of the region.

The Uvalde Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB) recently paid for a branding effort to more specifically define Uvalde’s tourism potential. The study found people come to Uvalde because of the surrounding area, primarily Garner and area waterways.

“Uvalde has more spring-fed rivers and streams than any other county,” Austin says. “If you remember the old Pearl Beer commercial about the water for their beer coming from the land of 1,100 springs, this is the area they were talking about.”4

Ken Cave of the Texas Hill Country River Region (THCRR), the tourism organization for the area surrounding Uvalde, echoed Austin’s statement. But, he says, access to those streams is limited to private parks, public road bridges and Garner State Park. The THCRR represents 80 bed and breakfast hotels, privately owned guest cabins and lodges – including Garner – that serve tourists in the Frio River area and provide water recreation. According to THCRR data, in 2007, these hotels generated more than $8 million in estimated sales and almost $500,000 in hotel motel and tax receipts that were used to fund THCRR’s economic development activities. (Texas parks collect hotel motel taxes on overnight visitors staying in a cabin, but not for tent or RV campers.)5

Lost Maples State Park contributed $1,665,659 in sales and $691,417 in personal income to Bandera County in 2006. Garner State Park contributed $7,803,922 in sales and $3,337,366 in personal income
to Uvalde County
in 2006.

Both parks experienced a change in visitation, according to Lost Maples Superintendent John Stuart and Garner Superintendent Rick Meyers, who say high gasoline prices are likely discouraging visitors from Dallas and Houston while encouraging visitors from San Antonio and the Texas-Mexico border. Park hosts – generally retired couples in RVs who work at the parks in exchange for free campsites – are coming either from areas closer to the parks or, if they hail from the Midwest and Canada, are staying longer.

“We might start missing snowbirds,” Stuart says wryly, referring to the nickname for winter visitors to South Texas. One park host couple he knows figured the cost of gasoline just to get home to Ohio would be $1,000.

This change in visitation is having one good side effect. As Meyers says, “All the visitors from San Antonio stop at the Uvalde Wal-Mart and load up” on camping gear, food, drinks, rafts and the like.6 Both the manager and co-manager of the Uvalde Wal-Mart, George Herrera and Frank Ramirez, call their store a “river store” because of all the river-related equipment and consumables they sell. Even their regional marketing managers have taken to the phrase.7

Garner has the highest net revenue of all state parks. In 2007, Garner’s operating costs, excluding the costs for major repairs, capital and employee benefits, were $1,041,847; revenues were $2,206,138 for a net gain of $1,164,291.

Lake in Lost Maples State Natural Area in Bandera and Real Counties, Texas

Lost Maples also has positive net revenue. In 2007, the park generated revenues of $421,606 against $322,107 in expenses, for a $99,499 net gain.8

A study conducted by John Crompton and Juddson Culpepper of Texas A&M University found that Lost Maples State Park contributed $1,665,659 in sales and $691,417 in personal income to Bandera County in 2006. The park also created 51.6 jobs and generated $8,328 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year. (The study did not estimate the park’s economic impact on Real County.) Garner State Park contributed $7,803,922 in sales and $3,337,366 in personal income to Uvalde County in 2006. The park also created 115.6 jobs and generated $39,019 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year.9

Summary Economic Impacts
Lost Maples State Park, Bandera County

2006 County Sales 2006 County Resident Income 2006 County Employment (Full-Time Equivalent) 2006 County Sales Tax Generated
$1,665,659 $691,417 51.6 $8,328

Source: Texas A&M University.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)

Revenues Operating Expenses* Net Income
$421,606 $322,107 $99,499

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

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Summary Economic Impacts
Garner State Park, Uvalde County

2006 County Sales 2006 County Resident Income 2006 County Employment (Full-Time Equivalent) 2006 County Sales Tax Generated
$7,803,922 $3,337,366 115.6 $39,019

Source: Texas A&M University.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)

Revenues Operating Expenses* Net Income
$2,206,138 $1,041,847 $1,164,291

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

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Endnotes

  • 1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Lost Maples State Natural Area,” pp. 1-3, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/lost_maples/. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
  • 2 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “State Park Sites, Acreage, and Visits,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations.
  • 3 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Garner State Park,” p. 2, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/garner/. (Last visited September 18, 2008.)
  • 4 Interview with Thomas M. Austin, economic development director, City of Uvalde, Uvalde, Texas, July 2, 2008.
  • 5 Interview with Ken Cave, executive director, Texas Hill Country River Region, Uvalde, Texas, July 2, 2008.
  • 6 Interviews with John Stuart, superintendent, Lost Maples State Park, Vanderpool, Texas and Rick Meyers, superintendent, Garner State Park, Concan, Texas, July 1, 2008.
  • 7 Interviews with George Herrera, manager, and Frank Ramirez, co-manager, Wal-Mart, Uvalde, Texas, July 2, 2008.
  • 8 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Revenue Less Operating Costs, FY 2006-2007,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations. Amounts may not total due to rounding.
  • 9 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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