The San Jacinto Battleground has been a tourist attraction since Texas won its independence there in 1836. It became a state park in 1907, and the San Jacinto Monument was built in the 1930s during the Texas centennial celebration. Until now, the general public has always had free access, but Parks Department Regional Director Jerry Hopkins says the entire department is under such a financial strain they have to start charging people to get in.
Texas has about 120 state parks, and San Jacinto is one of only a few with no admission fee, a fact that's helped make it one of the most popular parks in the state because it's in the state's largest urban area with a never-ending supply of school children, tourists, history buffs and picnickers. It's so popular Hopkins says they don't think a $1 admission will affect park attendance. The admission comes in at about the same time a $2 million renovation of the San Jacinto Monument tower is getting underway, but Hopkins says the admission has nothing to do with the repairs, because the legislature appropriated money for that work.
They're renovating the elevator shaft to bring it up to date with modern fire safety codes and removing a lot of asbestos, which means the monument and the ground floor museum will be closed until the work is done.
They had hoped to start collecting the park admission Sunday, January first, but Manager Russ Kuykendahl says they're not quite ready.
While the park admission fee has to wait a bit longer, they're already charging higher admission to the nearby Battleship Texas. Tickets to the historic World War One era battleship have gone from $7 to $10 for people 13 and older, and from $4 to $5 for senior citizens. School groups now pay $3 per child, up from $2.