Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

The Death of OK’s Lake Texoma State Park and the Promises of Privatization

apermanentwreck / flickr

Lake Texoma State Park was one of Oklahoma’s most popular parks when the state in 2005 agreed to sell it to a private development firm.

State officials were required to create a new public park of equal value to secure the transfer, and the $14.6 million deal closed in 2008.

The company plans to build a $500-million-plus gated retreat of condos, hotels, fancy homes and golf courses. Restaurants, swimming pools, a gym and a spa are going in. The developers are getting tax incentives to do it, too., reports nonprofit journalism outfit InvestigateWest.

Today, neither the private resort or the replacement park have been built.

State officials decided to privatize Lake Texoma to save taxpayers $20 million to $40 million of a $90 million backlog of park maintenance costs, according to the report by Robert McClure.

After years of budget cuts, seven of Oklahoma’s state parks were shuttered in 2011. Officials said the move would save taxpayers $700,000 a year. In the end, five of the parks were transferred to cities; American Indian tribes assumed management of the other two.

InvestigateWest has been examining failures in a National Parks Service provision designed to protect parks that receive federal parks grants. Lake Texoma State Park has received $1.6 million in federal grants, InvestigateWest reports.

The National Park Service oversees such park “conversions,” but lacks adequate controls to ensure that grant recipients follow the law. There’s also no hard deadline for replacing converted parkland, according to the report.

Replacement land is supposed to be purchased immediately or, if that’s not possible, within one year, according to Park Service regulations. The Park Service’s rules also say a fully functioning park must be up and running within three years – but does not spell out penalties if that doesn’t happen.

The development firm that bought Lake Texoma State Park, Pointe Vista Development, has two prominent investors: Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, and Mark Fischer, CEO and Chairman of Chaparral Energy.

The developers are still looking for investors, and the former state park is largely unused, InvestigateWest reports:

The campground continues to limp along, but overall the park looks like a ghost town. A smudge on the earth marks where the 106-room lodge once stood, and the 67 cabins await demolition.

Parks officials told InvestigateWest they were “actively working” to acquire property for the replacement park, and the developer’s plans now hinge on county tax incentives.

In Pointe Vista’s case, the so-called “TIF money” is to be used to offset the costs of building roads, sewers and other necessary “infrastructure” to transform the spare and simple state park into a luxurious high-end resort. It means Marshall County and school districts near the park will give up more than $30 million over the course of 25 years, according to estimates released when the Marshall County Commission approved creation of a tax-increment financing district.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003699442236 Debra Boggs

    I have been complaining about the condition of our lakes for months. The wildlife dept. blows it off, but after reading this I am sure that I am right. Just how long have they been exploiting and ignoring the lakes? Who has been spending the funding?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003699442236 Debra Boggs

    It figures that Deby Snodgrass is a friend of Mary Fallins. No wonder she has done NOTHING. It seems Fallin in known for given back rub jobs without any care of the quality of their work preformance. Deby Snodgrass you are as disgusting as your name.

  • Defendlaketexoma

    Pointe Vista Development promotional material presents an image of a new 1850 acre lakeside community that sets a new standard for luxury. Most of the campgrounds at Lake Texoma State Park are included in the 1,022 acres they are trying to acquire from the Corps of Engineers. The park still exists. Only, the Area A surrounding Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course, and Area B, which included the site of the former LTSP Resort Lodge, resort golf course and cabins, were sold in 2008. And while Pointe Vista claims to be completing a federa EIS on the Area C – 1,022 acres which they DO NOT YET OWN, they have mislead the public for almost three years with this propaganda. There is no DRAFT EIS. Governor Falln, Tourism Director Snodgrass and Pointe Vista officials have engaged an extensive public relations campaign to deceive the public on this point. They have no intention of funding or completing the EIS required by the Corps of Engineers, and they’re not gong to. Now, why do you suppose they don’t want to do a full Environmental and Financial analysis prior to intitiating construction? Do you think that such a monstrous project consuming 3,000 acres, creating 3,000 housing units, requireing over 3 million gallons of water per day might not be environmentallly sustainable?

  • defendlaketexoma

    The State of Oklahoma has a rainy day fund which exceeds $600 million. When Governor Fallin talks about saving taxpayers $700,000 per year through “modernization and streamlining government services” it’s just slick public relations spin to justify continuing privatization of our public parks. She, the Lt. Gov. and State Senator Josh Brecheen have joined together in a concerted effort to create the false perception that they are working to expedite an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is required before construction can begin at Pointe Vista. That EIS was put on hold by the Tourism Department almost two years ago! The Corps of Engineers illegally segmented the Pointe Vista project into three land parcels, the first two of which were sold by the State in 2008. Now Corps environmental officials are failing to require the State to complete the EIS in what appears to be a coordinated effort to undermine the National Environmental Policy Act prior to expediting a final push for the 1,022 acre “Area C” land transfer to Pointe Vista by legislative action. Watch and see. This would create a horrible legal precedent, undermining multiple state and federal laws in order to transfer billions of dollars in public lands to the private sector: Aubrey McClendon and Mark Fischer.

  • goldenlion365

    I have a great deal of family in the area and the best memories were made in what used to be our state park. I was profoundly disappointed that it sold and even more disgusted when the replacement services were never even started. Even if a drastic remodel was necessary it would benefit the developers as well as the state and local economies to get our parks up and running. Tourism is devastated. I have heard many people from all over the country that would prefer to use Lake Murray. Our area was so much more beautiful and used to be a more vivacious place to live.

    • Stephen Willis

      Kingston residents are organizing a legal defense campaign to sue the Army Corps of Engineers for illegally selling two segments of Lake Texoma State Park in 2008. Our first community meeting will be Wednesday, May 22, at 7:15 PM at the Kingston High School Multi-Purpose Facility. Please join us and bring a friend! Defend-Lake-Texoma-State-Park.org

  • Stephen Willis

    Maybe it’s not a Done Deal after all. Sign the Petition to the Gov: http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-oklahoma-s-state-parks-are-not-yours-to-sell

  • miss piggy

    I have not voted for a republican since Ronald Reagan and never intend to in the future. They only care for themselves and the very wealthy.

  • Susan Stiles

    I do not believe that privatization of public lands is going to be beneficial to most people. With the Federal grants and back log monies available, it should be more than enough to build modern park facilities in a timely manner. I cannot believe you are still asking for donations! Spend what you have been allotted and within the established budget. Quit depending on the poor local community to finance anything beyond your means. Build a public park NOW for everyone to enjoy.

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