Despite the intense attention races at the top of the ballot have received—and despite the massive voter turnout those races are driving—some of the most important decisions can be found at the bottom of the Hays County ballot.
This year, Proposition A seeks to issue $75 million in bonds over the next 10 years to support local parks and green spaces. Proposition A can only benefit the people—and the plants and animals—that call Hays County home.
It has been about 13 years since Hays County's last park bond was passed, and the $30 million in funding approved in 2007 (supplemented by matching grants) gave us such beloved amenities, like the Five Mile Dam, Wimberley Blue Hole Park and several sport facilities.
It is past time for more conservation efforts on existing green spaces and new ones alike.
Hays County is in an excellent position when it comes to parks and green spaces. Not only do parks and green spaces bring in jobs and steady revenue, but Hays County has almost 60 endangered or threatened species that depend on the unique habitats found throughout.
One goal of Proposition A is to purchase land surrounding existing public lands, creating more contiguous habitats for those endangered and threatened species. Conservation efforts benefit greatly from contiguous land management—even a perfectly-managed property can only do so much to support the organisms that live on it if those organisms move beyond its borders.
Another goal is flood mitigation efforts—something Hays County desperately needs. As its population (and subsequent development) has increased, so has the degree of Hays County's flood risks. Proposition A sets aside land for flood mitigation and creates new recharge lands to direct more water into the Edwards Aquifer, rather than leaving it to run off the hard pavement of developed lands.
Aside from the financial and ecological arguments for Proposition A, it also simply ensures more sources of fun for Hays County residents for years to come. New hiking trails—including one connecting Buda and Austin—new park amenities and new camping and river recreation opportunities will be a great boon to residents and tourists who want to get outside and enjoy our beautiful landscape.
The best part of all is that passing Proposition A would not place any further stress on already stretched thin Hays County taxpayers. The current tax rate would not be raised to fund this bond project, and the 10-year window for spending ensures the county government can put off these park projects until it is better equipped to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, we must appreciate the great value outdoor recreation facilities provide our community. Considering the relatively painless funding of these bonds—which are expected to be matched by outside sources of funding—Hays County residents can be confident that voting for Proposition A is the right thing to do, for us and for the next generations of people to live in this beautiful slice of Texas.
-Toni Mac Crossan is a Biology graduate student
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