New â€˜Texas State Parks Passâ€™ Provides Free Entry, Many Extras
AUSTIN, Texasâ€” Visitors heading to Texas state parks this spring will be greeted upon arrival with posters and park employees sporting lapel buttons that read: â€œAll the Parks. Extra Perksâ€ designed to call attention to a new annual parks pass. The new Texas State Parks Pass provides free entry to all 120 state parks and historic sites for members and their guests, camping discounts and other benefits for a year. The new parks pass, which sells for $60, went on sale at state parks and historic sites Jan. 1. TPWD reports that more than 3,304 park passes were sold in January, generating more than $200,000 for state parksâ€™ coffers. Annual sales of the new parks pass are projected to contribute a minimum of $3 million to state park operations. â€œThe per-person, per-day cost of coming into parks varies from $2 to $5 a person, so it doesnâ€™t take you very long or very many trips to pay for the pass,â€ said Walt Dabney, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department state parks director. â€œAll of the money from sales goes to help operate the state parks and further conservation in Texas. It also helps us maintain our parks so that the safe, quality experience visitors have come to expect when they visit state parks is perpetuated.â€ Similar in appearance to a credit card, the new annual pass retails for $60 for one wallet-sized pass card. Families who often visit state parks and arrive at different times or in more than one vehicle may opt to make a same-day purchase of a two-card pass package for $75. The new annual pass was designed to be easier to use and to provide greater value to park users than the previous annual parks pass. Some of the Texas State Parks Passâ€™ â€œextra perksâ€ include: Discounts for camping, state park store merchandise, recreational equipment rentals and more. The Getaway Planner, a quarterly e-newsletter customized to the cardholderâ€™s areas of interest, such as mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. 25 percent discount off the regular subscription price for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine; (current subscribers received $10 off the new parks pass). Free copy of the Texas State Park Guide. An â€œI Belong in State Parksâ€ decorative decal for pass members. The new parks pass replaces the gold Texas Conservation Passport, the sales of which were discontinued on Dec. 31. TCPs will still be honored a year from purchase through Dec. 31, 2004. Current TCP holders retain all prior benefits, with the exception of the printed Texas Passport Journal, which has been discontinued. The approximately 48,000 TCP holders will receive a $10 discount off their first Texas State Parks Pass purchase and are eligible to register to receive the customized, e-newsletter. Parks director Dabney says the new parks pass not only represents a great value for the money, but also addresses concerns expressed by TCP-holders, supports parks directly and builds customer loyalty. He noted that the new pass, unlike the TCP, allows pass members and their guests not only to get into historic sites for free, but also allows them to tour the sitesâ€™ featured attractions at no cost. â€œThe new Texas State Parks Pass is more user-friendly and a better all-around value for state park users.â€ The Texas State Parks Pass can be purchased at all 120 Texas state parks and historic sites and through TPWDâ€™s Customer Contact Center at (512) 389-8900. Pass purchasers initially will receive a temporary wallet card that will be replaced within 30-45 days by a plastic card bearing the purchaserâ€™s name. Customized cards will be mailed in a special package that includes six discount coupons for camping, a Texas State Park Guide, a decorative decal and information on how to sign up for the â€œGetaway Plannerâ€ e-newsletter. The new state parks pass is the result of more than a year of planning and development by working teams composed of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff and members of the private sector representing business, tourism and outdoor recreation interests. Seven Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners, including Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons, were among the early purchasers of the new annual pass.