Oklahoma recently trimmed seven state parks from its roster, bringing the total down to 35 from 42. In the end, cities and American Indian tribes assumed control of all seven parks.
The parks slated for closure had poor attendance and some duplicated activities of other nearby — and more popular — state parks. Parks officials said the move would save taxpayers $700,000 a year.
In light of all the parks talk, StateImpact Oklahoma dug into the data to see what parks taxpayers were paying the most for.
The state spent about $18.8 million on state parks in 2011, data show. More than half that funding went to just five state parks. Hit the jump to read more about Oklahoma’s five most expensive state parks.
|5.||Lake Thunderbird State Park||2011 Operating Cost: $1.2 million|
Last year, more than 637,000 people visited Lake Thunderbird, the fifth most expensive state park in Oklahoma.
Located in Norman, the lake provides Oklahoma City-area residents easy weekend access to boating, swimming and water-skiing.
Lake Thunderbird earned $461,506 from activity fees in 2011, parks data show, less than one-third the revenue of the fourth most expensive state park in Oklahoma.
|4.||Robbers Cave State Park and Belle Starr Lodge||2011 Operating Cost: $1.4 million|
Once a hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr, Robbers Cave is beloved by rock climbers, rappellers and, oddly enough, social psychologists.
More than 830,000 people visited the park in 2011, making Robbers Cave the third most popular state park in Oklahoma. The park collected $1,535,454 in revenue last year, parks data show.
Adding in the operating costs of the 20-room Belle Starr Lodge brings the 2011 tab for Robbers Cave to $1,405,91.
|3.||Beavers Bend State Park and Lakeview Lodge||2011 Operating Cost: $2.5 million|
Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps and National Parks Service project, Beavers Bend was purchased by the state in 1937, and was the second most-attended park last year.
Located in forested southeastern Oklahoma, Beavers Bend is situated near Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River.
The park’s 40-room Lakeview Lodge cost $414,255 to run last year, parks data show, but Beavers Bend generates the most revenue of any state park. Last year, the park alone earned $1,787,731. Adding in the lodge’s earnings brings the total park revenue in 2011 to more than $2.3 million.
|2.||Sequoyah State Park and Western Hills Guest Ranch||2011 Operating Cost: $3.2 million|
More than 275,000 people visited Sequoyah State Park last year, which is about an hour southeast of Tulsa on the banks of Fort Gibson Lake.
Sequoyah became a state park in 1948 and cost $888,124 to run in 2011, parks data show — a figure that only puts the park in the top 10 most expensive parks in the state. But when you figure in one of the park’s signature attractions, the 104-room guest lodge, that number jumps dramatically.
The Western Hills Guest Ranch is the largest — and most expensive — of the state’s park lodges. Last year, the lodge’s operating expenditures were $2,266,348, the single most costly state park attraction on the balance sheet.
|1.||Lake Murray State Park and Lodge||2011 Operating Cost: $3.5 million|
Oklahoma’s most expensive park tops a lot of other lists. Lake Murray is the state’s most popular park, it earns the most money from activity fees, and it was the first state park.
The Oklahoma State Legislature in 1931 appropriated $90,000 to purchase 10,000 acres in Carter and Love counties. A dam construction project by the National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps started in 1933 and ended in 1937, when the new lake and sate park were debuted.
Named after William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, Oklahoma’s ninth governor, Lake Murray and the on-site Lake Murray Lodge cost $3,510,931 to run in 2011, parks data show. The park and lodge together made almost $3.2 million in revenue last year.