There's a saying that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.
The point is that history teaches us about those who came before us, it informs us of who we are as a community, a state, a nation and a planet and it is part of the very fabric of a place and its people.
We Texans possess one of the richest state histories, and that ain't just bragging. No other state was a separate republic, if only for a short while, and no other state has a six-volume encyclopedia, The Handbook of Texas.
So why is Gov. Rick Perry wanting to do away with the Texas Historical Commission for two years? Not kill it, just put it to sleep for a while.
To save money, of course. As state legislators grapple with a $15 billion state budget shortfall, it's easy to pick out targets like the historical commission and the Commission on the Arts — the justification being that they provide services that are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.
But that action could have the unintended consequences of costing the state — and especially its small towns — money, too.
Here's what the Texas Historical Commission does:
* Administers the National Register of Historic Places for historical sites in Texas
* Identifies State Archaeological Landmarks and historic cemeteries
* Administers the Texas Heritage Trails program to promote tourism and historic preservation
* Erects historical markers and designates Texas Historic Landmarks.
* Funds historical preservation projects such as Barnard's Mill and restoration of county courthouses.
Glen Rose has benefitted a lot from the commission's resources, not only in the form of grants, but also in expertise and promotion of tourism.
The city's Convention & Visitors Bureau has not received direct dollars, but it has participated in some of the commission's programs, such as the Texas Lakes Trail, one of the "heritage trails" around the state.
"I understand cutting budgets," Billy Huckaby, director of the Glen Rose CVB, told me. "But at the same time, when tourism dollars go down, sales tax revenues go down."
Huckaby also pointed that out that a lot of the funding for the trails program comes from the federal government. If the state doesn't have a historical commission to receive those dollars, they're likely going to go to another state, he said.
The Somervell History Foundation has received three matching grants from the commission to help preserve Barnard's Mill Art Museum — a $14,000 grant to make the original plans and architectural guidelines; a $30,000 grant to repoint the mill's stone masonry; and a $30,000 grant to refurbish and restore the annex.
In the case of Barnard's Mill, the preservation dollars impact education and the arts locally, too, since the mill holds annual tours by students as well as hosts art shows and other functions.
"This is an economic necessity to communities like this that depend on tourism," Pat Barrow, the history foundation's president, said of historic preservation and tourism promotion. "For us, it's a need, not a want."
Thankfully, some legislators, such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, have rejected proposals to cut all of the commission's funding. Other lawmakers have suggested downsizing the commission by transferring money from the state's Preservation Trust Fund.
Glen Rose was lucky — it maxed out its commission funding for Barnard's Mill before the latest cuts have been proposed. But what about other small towns already hit hard by the economic downturn?
The Texas Travel Industry Association, the trade group for tourism-related professionals, argues that tourism promotion is "part of Texas' budget solution" and should not be cut.
Marketing Texas as a tourism destination generates millions of dollars in state revenues that are used to fund essential services, the association says. It points out that 92 percent of every dollar of state hotel occupancy revenue helps fund state general revenue programs such as public education, health and human services and other state functions.
Every $1 spent on tourism promotion produces more than $7 in state tax revenues, the TTIA estimates. That's an impressive return on investment.
When the state of Colorado eliminated its state tourism funding, it lost 30 percent in tourism market share and fell from "America's top summer resort destination to number 17, and has not been in the top 10 since," the association went on to say.
Let's not repeat Colorado's history. Please contact your state representative and senator today (Sid Miller and Brian Birdwell, respectively, represent Somervell County).
History matters — and so does travel by those who love historic destinations — to Texas and to Glen Rose. If anything has saved Glen Rose from the fate of other struggling small towns, it's those very two things that are necessities, not just niceties.