Four More State Parks at Risk as Budget Cuts and Low Revenue Loom

  • Logan Layden
A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Christopher Caldwell / Flickr

A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Four state parks in northeastern Oklahoma could be sold off, leased out or closed due to state budget cuts and low park revenue.

Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation hasn’t made a final decision on three of the parks, but is considering selling or leasing Disney/Little Blue Area at Grand Lake, Snowdale Area at Grand Lake and Spring River Canoe Trails.

But the agency on July 8 decided to terminate the state’s lease at Walnut Creek, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, KJRH reports.

Selling or leasing the parks are just two of the options they are considering.

Blair said department leaders are exploring all possibilities.

On Tuesday, the tourism and recreation department said it would terminate its lease at Walnut Creek State Park in Osage County, thereby closing the park at the end of summer.

Oklahoma State Parks at Risk of Sale, Lease or Closure

StateImpact has reported on the dwindling number of state parks since a major budget crisis that began five years ago. In 2011, the department of tourism offloaded seven state parks to save about $700,000.

All seven parks remain open today after being taken over by cities and tribal governments.

The decision has been made to end the lease at Walnut Creek, which will close unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds another tenant, KJRH reports:

Park visitors say they are worried about public access and fees should the parks be leased or sold.

“State parks are for people who pay taxes and it’s part of our right to enjoy that. I’d hate to see it go privatized,” said Lisa Myers, a frequent visitor to Snowdale State Park.

The latest data from the tourism department wasn’t available to StateImpact by the time this article was published, but as of 2011 Spring River State Park was the cheapest to run, least attended and least revenue-generating state park in Oklahoma.