Robbers Cave was the third most-attended state park in 2011.

Gene Perry / Flickr

The Most Popular StateImpact Oklahoma Stories of 2011

  • Joe Wertz

Gene Perry / Flickr

Our coverage of state park budget cuts and closings are on the list of our most-read stories.

It’s been a busy five months.

Since coming online in August, StateImpact Oklahoma has traveled the state to report on state budget issues. We’ve live-blogged from task force meetings, filed mountains of open-records requests, pointed our cameras and microphones at sandy dunes to report on state park closings and stared at mountains of chicken poop.

We’ve got big plans for 2012, thanks to you, our readers. Your feedback, questions, e-mails, Tweets and comments — positive and negative — have given us direction and a sense of purpose.

Here are the five most popular StateImpact Oklahoma stories of the year.

Universal Pictures

Without tax credits, cash-strapped studios today might have filmed Francis Ford Coppola’s Tulsa-set Rumble Fish in another state or country, state film officials told the tax credit task force.

5. What The Tax Credit Task Force Taught Us About Film Incentives

The Oct. 12 tax credit task force meeting was among most interesting. Up for discussion were film incentives designed to bring movie productions to the state. Some lawmakers questioned whether jobs were actually created, while tourism officials, an independent filmmaker, a screenwriter and a general contractor defended the economic benefits movie productions bring.

A representative of the Tax Foundation, which has criticised film subsidies, flew in from Washington, D.C., and told the panel that the only beneficiary of the state-on-state competition for film projects is the film industry itself

Logan Layden / NPR StateImpact

A man rides an ATV across the sand at Beaver Dunes, a former state park recently transferred to the City of Beaver.

4. Why Oklahoma is Closing Parks for the First Time in Almost 10 Years

Unfortunately, 2011 was a banner year for state park closures — the worst the state has seen in 20 years. In March, the Tourism and Recreation Department announced plans to shut down seven state parks, reducing the number of state parks to 35 from 42. Tourism officials said the move would save about $660,000 per year.

The parks — Adair, Boggy Depot, Heavener Runestone, Brushy Lake, Beaver Dunes, Wah-Sha-She and Lake Eucha — were among the 20 least-attended in 2011. Still, they were beloved by many. The very word ‘Oklahoma’ was coined at one of them, Boggy Depot.

The good news: While stripped of their “state” status, none of the parks were actually shut down. The State of Oklahoma transferred five of the parks to cities. American Indian tribes took over the other two, including Boggy Depot.

Logan Layden / NPR StateImpact

Steve Conrad had to call his accountant to confirm receiving tax credits for about 7,500 tons of poultry litter.

3. Billions in State Tax Breaks, But no Complete List

Most Oklahomans receive some kind of tax break, whether it’s a credit, deduction, or exemption.

So when it comes to taxes and fees: How many breaks are actually on the books in Oklahoma? StateImpact Oklahoma asked and asked — for months.

The answer: No one really knows.

Logan Layden asked tax credit task force co-chairman David Dank, a Republican state Representative from Oklahoma City. He asked Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, another task force regular. We asked the Tax Commission.

Layden even found a farmer who received more than $37,000 in one particular credit and didn’t even know it.

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport

Oklahoma lawmakers have chased Texas’ economic policy for more than a decade.

2. Oklahoma vs. Texas: A Red River Rivalry … of Taxes?

Oklahoma lawmakers are obsessed with Texas.

The love affair has been around a long time, but it reached a frenzy 10 years ago when then-Gov. Frank Keating proposed eliminating franchise and estate taxes and reducing the state income tax to compete with our southern neighbor.

Things are much the same today. So what’s going on down there? What’s so great about that state’s economy? And is OK vs. Texas even a fair comparison?

A lot of Texas’ growth might be simple baby-making, we were told. And a lot of the Lonestar State’s relative recession resilience could be because of stiff regulation, not the lack of it, an economist told us.


1. Mapped: An Overview of Poverty in Oklahoma

Poverty in Oklahoma is at a 10-year high. It’s even worse for the state’s youth, where the increases are outpacing adult poverty estimates.

Our interactive map explored poverty percentages throughout Oklahoma’s 77 counties, and it sparked a very strong reaction among our readers.

Mapped: An Overview of Poverty in Oklahoma was hands down the most popular StateImpact Oklahoma story in 2011. It got the most views, led our Twitter and Facebook discussion for weeks, and generated a swarm of lively comments from those touched by poverty.