TEXAS STATE PARKS
Natural Economic Assets
STATE PARK PROFILES
Pedernales Falls State Park
Wilderness is the star attraction at Pedernales Falls State Park. A river with rocky limestone falls, hiking trails, remote campsites with RV hook-ups for the comfort-minded and bird watching opportunities are among the assets of the park.
Just 40 miles from Austin and 68 miles from San Antonio, Pedernales Falls State Park hosts an average of 100,000 to 200,000 visitors each year. June is generally the busiest month, according to Park Superintendent Bill McDaniel.1 The park’s natural beauty and proximity to tourist destinations like Lyndon B. Johnson National and State Historic Sites in Johnson City; Fredericksburg, a popular tourist attraction; Blanco and Guadalupe River State Parks; and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area make this Hill Country retreat a popular stop for nature lovers.2
Pedernales Falls State Park hosts an average of 100,000 to 200,000 visitors each year.
In 1970, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department purchased 5,211 acres from the Circle Bar Ranch in Blanco Country. In its naturally wild state, the park’s visitors could hike to see the eight-mile stretch of the Pedernales River, which turns into a raging torrent when sufficient rain falls nearby or upstream.3 Today, the park is sparsely developed, but has a park headquarters building with a store, water treatment facility, bird viewing station and restrooms with and without showers. A 69-site camping area with electricity, water and RV hook-ups, a primitive camping area with room for 20 groups and a youth group camping area add facilities for overnight stays. Trails include 19.8 miles for hiking and mountain biking; 10 miles for horseback riding; and 14 miles for backpacking.4
Financially, the park collects more revenue than it spends, and thus provides surplus revenue to the park system. A staff of 11 is aided by “park hosts” – volunteers who stay in the park for free in exchange for aiding park visitors and helping with basic maintenance. The volunteer program has been important in helping to keep the parks operating during times of restricted funding. Volunteers stay for a minimum of one month and have access to a laundromat and email. Volunteers often travel to nearby Johnson City and other communities to buy groceries, supplies and meals.
One new staff position plus some funding for seasonal and hourly staffing, will be added as a new allocation of funding becomes available. A water treatment project will also be funded.5
Outdoor activities and the chance for peace and quiet bring visitors to the park. Steve Matthews, real estate broker and owner of RE/MAX Home Ranch Realty in Johnson City, says he moved there in 1977 because of the parks – Pedernales and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Site. He said he and his family would drive from San Antonio with a travel trailer and stay at Pedernales.
“We fell in love with the place,” he says.
Over 150 bird species have been spotted
at Pedernales Falls State Park.
Retirement brought the opportunity to permanently relocate, and he purchased a house in the area. Today, “there’s a tremendous number of people who come to the area because of the parks,” he confirmed.6
Sandra Treviño, owner of the Hill Country Cupboard on U.S. Highway 281 in Johnson City, says that most of her customers are tourists.
“Families are the majority of our business,” she reported, “But high gas prices have affected our sales this year. People tell us they don’t get out in the area as much.”
Her business is near the busy crossroads of U.S. Highway 281 and Highway 290, so she sees people coming from San Antonio, Austin and Marble Falls. She says she can pick out the campers immediately by the clothes they’re wearing.
“Today we had a lot of campers,” she related, as Hurricane Dolly brought rain and cloudy skies to the Hill Country.7
Campers may want to bring their binoculars to view birds. Over 150 bird species have been spotted at Pedernales Falls State Park, and the endangered golden-cheeked warbler comes to nest in cedars in mid-March.8 A volunteer built a bird blind after Park Superintendent McDaniel saw a sanctuary in Florida.9 The glass-fronted blind holds bird identification materials, a list of birds spotted and room for about 15 people to gather. Water and food help attract the birds. Sometimes other wildlife partakes of the bounty. Typical Hill Country wildlife – deer, coyotes and armadillos – also live in the wooded areas of the park and may be seen near the blind.10
Bird and wildlife watching can help the local and state economies. Wildlife watchers in Texas spent an average of $686 in 2006, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On each day of a trip, they spent an average of $32, averaging about 14 days away from home. In total, trip-related spending in Texas totaled $424.2 million. Another $2.5 billion was spent on equipment and other supplies.11
Fishing, swimming and mountain biking are allowed, but you need to bring your own horse if riding on a trail is your preferred activity.12 Occasionally, public hunts for deer or feral hogs are allowed, but none have been held in the last few years. If the park is opened for a public hunt, all guests must leave and the park is closed to non-hunters for the duration of the hunt.
Pedernales Falls State Park contributed $1,607,313 in sales and $625,923 in personal income to Blanco County in 2006.
The possibility of development threatens the pristine, isolated nature of the park. Nearby property is for sale that McDaniel says would be a very valuable addition to the park, but TPWD does not have the funds to purchase it. If housing or other development occurs, visitors may see houses across the river instead of wilderness. They may also be tempted to cross the Pedernales River where access has been forbidden, owing to past incidents of drowning or injuries. Park Superintendent McDaniel says the water treatment plant is another issue. He and several employees are trained to monitor and treat the water, but keeping it in compliance with state regulations is tricky.13
In fiscal 2007, Pedernales Falls State Park reported a healthy net gain of $84,587 on revenues of $642,949 and operating expenses (including staff salaries and minor repairs) of $558,362.14
According to a study conducted by John Crompton and Juddson Culpepper of Texas A&M University, Pedernales Falls State Park contributed $1,607,313 in sales and $625,923 in personal income to Blanco County in 2006. The park also created 46 jobs and generated $8,037 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year.15
Summary Economic Impacts
Pedernales Falls State Park, Blanco County
|2006 County Sales||2006 County Resident Income||2006 County Employment (Full-Time Equivalent)||2006 County Sales Tax Generated|
Source: Texas A&M University.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)
|Revenues||Operating Expenses*||Net Income|
* Includes salaries, operating expenses and minor (non-capital) repair.
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
- 1 Interview with Bill McDaniel, park superintendent, Pedernales Falls State Park, Blanco, Texas, June 12, 2008.
- 2 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Pedernales Falls State Park,” pp. 2-3, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/pedernales_falls/. (Last visited August 27, 2008.)
- 3 Louis B. Parks, “Texas State Parks: Pedernales Falls: Adventure on the Rocks,” Houston Chronicle, April 2007, p. 4.
- 4 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Pedernales Falls State Park,” and Louis B. Parks, “Texas State Parks: Pedernales Falls: Adventure on the Rocks.”
- 5 Interview with Bill McDaniel, park superintendent, Pedernales Falls State Park.
- 6 Interview with Steve Matthews, real estate broker, RE/MAX Home Ranch Realty, Johnson City, Texas, July 24, 2008.
- 7 Interview with Sandra Treviño, owner, Hill Country Cupboard, Johnson City, Texas, July 24, 2008.
- 8 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Pedernales Falls State Park,” p. 3.
- 9 Louis B. Parks, “Texas State Parks: Pedernales Falls: Adventure on the Rocks.”
- 10 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “May-June 2008 Feature Park: Pedernales Falls State Park: Pedernales Falls a Hit with Birders, Cyclists and Water-lovers,” pp. 1-2, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/park_of_the_month/archive/2008/08_05_6.phtml. (Last visited August 27, 2008.)
- 11 U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, and U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation: Texas, (Washington, D.C., 2008), p.4, http://library.fws.gov/nat_survey2006_texas.pdf. (Last visited August 27, 2008.)
- 12 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Pedernales Falls State Park,” p. 2.
- 13 Interview with Bill McDaniel, park superintendent, Pedernales Falls State Park.
- 14 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.
- 15 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 August 27, 2008.)