In March, the legislature asked state agencies how they would deal with worst-case budget reductions of nearly 15 percent. A cut that deep at the Department of Tourism could cost Oklahoma half of its state parks.
Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s function is to preserve, manage and promotes the state’s natural and cultural assets.
Executive Director: Deby Snodgrass | FY 2012 appropriation: $21,803,003 (3.1 percent cut from FY 2011)
The OTRD’s governing body is the nine-member Tourism Commission, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. The department oversees several key subdivisions and offices:
Oklahoma Today Magazine
Published since 1956, Oklahoma Today is a general interest magazine that covers the people, history and culture of the state. It has a paid circulation of $45,000.
Parks, Resorts and Golf
The division that operates state parks, lodges and golf courses, and manages certain leased concessions like marinas. The parks division also administers federal grants for developing outdoor recreation.
Travel and Tourism
This division helps create plans and programs to market Oklahoma’s attractions. This department works with cities, communities and private associations to help them attract and promote historic events, conferences, meetings and conventions.
The Film and Music Office
A department within the Travel and Tourism division, this office was created in 1979 to promote the state’s film, television, video and music industries. This office promotes Oklahoma as a location for feature films and works as a liaison between production companies and local businesses. The OF&MO also helps secure permits and media access.
The OF&MO also administers three incentive programs for state film and music projects.
The $6.8 billion presumptive budget agreement has been praised for preserving money for education, prisons and Medicaid, but some of the sharpest cuts are aimed at agencies that regulate industry and protect the environment.
Flooding December 26-28 caps off a year that saw the Illinois River damaged by extreme rainfall time after time.
With the agency taking a cut of more than $16 million dollars going into the new fiscal year, the big question is whether more parks will have to go.
Conner says the 5 percent cut to the agency’s funding from the legislature only tells part of the story.
With Oklahoma facing a $300 million dollar budget gap that could get larger, most state agency are facing a 6.2 percent cut, including the Tourism and Recreation Department.
Walnut Creek State Park near Prue in Osage County closed for the season on Oct. 1, and might never open again.
Walnut Creek State Park closed indefinitely last weekend, the latest in a series of park closures that started in 2011.