Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

The Five Least Expensive State Parks in Oklahoma

Stormdriventitan / Flickr

More than 47,000 people visited Natural Falls State Park in 2011. The park cost taxpayers about $372,600 to run last year.

Cities and American Indian tribes recently assumed control of seven state parks, which state Tourism and Recreation Department officials said would save taxpayers about $700,000 a year.

We’ve been digging into the data to see where the costs are when it comes to state parks. Last week, we reported on Oklahoma’s five most expensive state parks. Here’s another look at the data: the five state parks with the smallest operating budgets.

Not surprisingly, Oklahoma’s most expensive parks are among its most popular. The least popular parks are those with the smallest operating budgets.

In fact, two of the five least expensive state parks on our list are no longer “state” parks at all.

5. Boggy Depot State Park | 2011 Operating Cost: $35,700

Joe Wertz / NPR StateImpact

The Choctaw Nation now manages the cemetery at Boggy Depot Park, where a historic chief, Allen Wright, is buried.

Boggy Depot was the territorial home of the Choctaws and Chickasaws, which were relocated to Indian Territory from Alabama and Mississippi.

Located near Atoka, the park commemorates a famous Civil War battle and Choctaw Chief Allen Wright, who lived there and coined the name ‘Oklahoma’ in 1860, combining his tribe’s words for people, ‘Okla,’ and ‘humma’ or ‘huma,’ meaning red. The Territory of Oklahoma, or the Territory of Red People, was suggested as a name for a tribal territory and the creation of an inter-tribal council. The territory was never established, but the name stuck when Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Despite Boggy Depot’s historical significance, it was among the least attended in 2011, parks data show. About 108,000 people visited the park last year, which generated only $13,380 in revenue from park fees.

Boggy Depot was one of the seven parks trimmed from the state’s budget. On Aug. 16, the Chickasaw Nation took over management of the park. The nearby cemetery — where Chief Wright and several members of his family are buried — will be managed by the Choctaw Nation.

4. Spavinaw State Park | 2011 Operating Cost: $19,600

The Inspired Photographer / Flickr

Spavinaw State Park is located near tree-lined Spavinaw Lake.

Situated near Spavinaw Lake in northeastern Oklahoma, Spavinaw State Park is well-known for its fishing and its proximity to the Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area, which has more than 14,000 acres available to hunters.

About 7,500 people visited the park last year, which brought in about $28,000 in fees, parks data show.

3. Lake Eucha State Park | 2011 Operating Cost: $15,300

The Inspired Photographer / Flickr

Swimming, skiing and diving aren't allowed in Lake Eucha, which is part of Tulsa's reservoir system.

Lake Eucha was stripped of its state park status this year, and is now operated by the City of Tulsa, which owns the land.

The lake itself was created in 1952 through a dam and pipeline project to help ensure clean water flow to nearby Lake Spavinaw, a reservoir that serves the Tulsa area. Because it supplies drinking water, no swimming, skiing or diving is allowed at Lake Eucha.

When it was managed by the state, the 31-acre park and swimming pool was the only state park that could be reserved by groups or families.

Less than 4,700 people visited Lake Eucha State Park in 2011, parks data show. The park earned about $7,500 of revenue in activity fees last year.

2. Talimena State Park | 2011 Operating Cost: $11,800

AR Nature Gal / Flickr

The Talimena National Scenic Drive starts at Oklahoma's Talimena State Park and continues 54 miles to Mena, Ark., where it ends.

The Talimena National Scenic Drive, a nationally recognized scenic byway, begins here, a 54-mile excursion into the Ouachita Mountains that’s renowned for its fall foliage. The drive follows State Highway 1 across the border, where it ends in Mena, Ark.

Talimena State Park is also well known among hikers, backpackers and cyclists, many of whom follow trails into Arkansas’ Ouachita National Forest.

About 7,600 people visited Talimena State Park last year, parks data show, and the park earned about $28,400 in revenue from activity fees — the most of any state park on this list.

1. Spring River Canoe State Park | 2011 Operating Cost: $39

Thomas Jones / Flickr

Spring River is one of two rivers that feed Grand River, the beginning of Grand Lake.

Oklahoma’s least expensive state park is also its least popular, and least revenue generating.

Spring River Canoe State Park, east of Miami in far northeastern Oklahoma, only saw 575 visitors in 2011, parks data show, which explains why it generated zero revenue last year.

Most of the activities at Spring River Canoe State Park revolve around fishing, canoeing, kayaking and rafting.

In 2010, the park’s roughly 7,200 visitors generated $80 in fees. The park’s annual budget that year was about $6,800.


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