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The more George Bristol dug into the history of the Texas state parks system, the more he returned to the same conclusion: Fort Worth’s fingerprints are all over it.

“There’s almost a straight line from the very beginning, with Amon Carter and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram voicing endorsement and support of state parks that went right through the ‘30s,” Bristol said.

Bristol, a prominent conservationist who led a 20-year push to increase funding for state parks, spent two years in his Fort Worth office researching the history of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

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Just over 20 years ago, George Bristol was finishing a six-year term on the board of the National Park Foundation, the charitable arm of the U.S. National Park Service. Following his appointment by President Bill Clinton, Bristol focused his energy on creating a viable fundraising strategy and raising the profile of national parks in the public eye.

However, friends told him there was trouble with parks in his home state of Texas. In 2000, Bristol went to see Andrew Sansom, then the executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

“I said: ‘What can I do to help?’” Bristol recalled. “He wrote on a tiny sheet of paper: ‘Money.’ Somewhere in all of my boxes, I’ve got that little note that says ‘Money.’ You could look around and, sure enough, we did need money.”

That conversation spurred Bristol to spend the next two decades convincing Texas lawmakers to increase the amount of state funding sent to the 95 parks, historic sites and natural areas overseen by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

His efforts paid off in 2019, when...


On April 28, the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge honored George Bristol at its annual fundraising event, Fort Worth Wild. George serves on the Friends’ board and has been instrumental in acquiring Texas Parks and Wildlife funding for the Nature Center, including $200,000 for the now-improved Greer Island Trailhead and added visitor amenities. Most recently, he helped raise $450,000 for new bison viewing decks at the Nature Center.

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George Bristol has spent most of his adult life devoted to parks. In 1961, he was a student at the University of Texas and took a summer job on a trail crew at Glacier National Park. That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with national parks that eventually led to his appointment to the board of the National Park Foundation, where he raised the public profile of national parks during his tenure.

He then put those fundraising and advocacy skills to work on his home ground in Texas to solidify support for the state parks system. Over the course of nearly two decades, Bristol worked tirelessly to promote and enhance Texas State Parks. He served as chairman of the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee and led a statewide effort for better park funding. In 2007, the Texas Legislature nearly tripled the appropriations to parks, and in 2015, the Legislature passed HB158, which dedicates all revenue generated by the sporting goods sales tax to Texas parks and historic sites.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Bristol is continuing his efforts to ensure a quality park...


Texas state parks have been a convenient piggy bank for the Legislature whenever money was short elsewhere, but this session they got their due. Lawmakers put more funding than ever into state parks, and additionally are giving voters a chance to approve a constitutional amendment this November to ensure a long-term source.

The amendment, passed by more than two-thirds of the House and Senate and signed by Governor Greg Abbott this weekend, is basically a fulfillment of funding that was promised in 1993. That year, lawmakers dedicated a portion of revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods to fund state parks — 94 percent of the revenue was meant for parks and the remaining 6 percent to the state’s 22 historic sites. Since then, though, legislators have consistently appropriated far less than parks’ full share, moving the money around to other parts of the budget and leaving some of the most beautiful and popular places in the state woefully underfunded....


George L. Bristol has had an active career in business, fundraising, and politics, yet he found time to devote to conservation, which stemmed from a life-long love affair with national, state, and local parks. Bristol was born in 1941 in Denton, Texas. His father died in 1946, and George's mother was a school teacher and librarian. In pursuing her career, she moved the family frequently to a variety of Texas communities over the years: Beeville, back to Denton, Orange, Weatherford, and finally to Austin. When the family arrived in Austin, Bristol was 12 years old. He spent his teenage years in that city and has lived there most of his life. Today he lives in Austin and Forth Worth with his wife, Gretchen Denny. The two locations give him time to visit with their children and grandchildren.

In high school, Bristol played football, worked at a variety of jobs, and graduated in the top 10% of his class. The family made extensive use of Austin's parks and swimming pools, especially its signature Zilker Park, because they were close and free attractions. Furthermore, his...

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Austin, TX, 6/18/2007: Longtime parks and conservation advocate George Bristol was recognized by The Trust for Public Land (TPL) with the organization’s first annual Texas Land & People Award. TPL presented the award to George during an event to celebrate the accomplishments of the 80th legislative session for parks in Texas. The Texas Land & People Award is given to individuals and organizations that demonstrate extraordinary commitment to conserving our natural lands, enhancing local or state parks systems, and protecting the natural assets that define our unique communities.

“We spoke to parks leaders and conservation organizations across the state, asking for nominations for our first annual award,” said TPL Texas State Director Nan McRaven. “All of them said, ‘George, George, George’.”

The gathering was held at the Austin home of Joe and Tana Christie. The celebration’s two-fold focus on the successes of the session and honoring George converged easily as guests spoke of George’s seminal role in working with legislators...


Mr. Bristol is a businessman and lobbyist with a passion for the outdoors that has found expression in the arts, including writing poetry and creating nature photography, and in public interest education and advocacy. His education efforts have been associated with his board membership at the National Park Foundation, Glacier National Park Fund, Texas Conservation Foundation, and Audubon Texas. His advocacy work has grown out of a concern that Texas state parks were being neglected, with infrastructure maintenance ignored, and acquisition opportunities passed up, due to a shortage of public funding. To build the economic rationale, broaden public support and enact added funding for state parks, he organized and served as staff for the Texas Coalition for Conservation, a non-partisan non-profit group. In 2007, the Coalition was successful in helping increase dedicated sporting goods tax revenues for the Texas Parks and Wildlife program, and in passing a park bond package.