Officials relieved to reach plan for park

As the fiscal dust surrounding the 82nd Texas Legislative Session settles, it appears the Big Spring State Park has avoided the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's budgetary axe, saved by an inter-local agreement between Howard County and the city of Big Spring.Both local governments have agreed to chip in $10,000 each — to be paid the TPWD — to help fund the continued operation of the Big Spring State Park.As part of the agreement between the local government agencies and the state offices, the $20,000 a year will allow the park — which had been on the TPWD cutting block early in the legislative session — to remain open and longtime Park Manager Ron Alton to remain at the facility's helm.Officials with Howard County and the city of Big Spring stepped in shortly after the list of state parks to be placed on the fiscal cutting block was released earlier this year.“In the end, these financial changes for the park won't equal any changes in the service here at the park,” Alton said. “We'll continue to operate the way we have been. There is no admission fee, however, donations are certainly welcome.“The one change that will likely impact my job the most is the elimination of a second park employee. I'll be running the park by myself. However, we have such a wonderful community, people are always willing to step up and help, so I'm not really worried about that.”The park will remain in the ownership of TPWD and maintain its state park designation, a matter which was of utmost importance to local officials.“The state park designation makes it a travel destination, so that was one of the things we were ready to fight for,” County Judge Mark Barr said. “It's well worth the funds were are putting forth to keep the facility open and to keep the state park designation.”