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’s state parks, lodges, golf courses and travel information centers are managed by the Parks Division, which is organized within the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
The tourism department has suffered a 22 percent budget cut since 2009, and officials in 2011 announced plans to close or transfer seven state parks, a move that Executive Director Deby Snodgrass said would save taxpayers $700,000 a year.
The parks were sparsely attended, generated little revenue from activity fees, and often duplicated amenities of more popular parks nearby, Snodgrass said.
Currently, Oklahoma has 35 official state parks.
Appropriation for State Parks
From State Park to Hotel-Casino: Texoma Residents Eager for Private Progress But Question Public Process
It’s been 10 years since the state of Oklahoma sold hundreds of acres at Texoma State Park to a private developer that never fulfilled its promise to build an elaborate lakeside resort.
The Demotion of a National Park in Oklahoma Exposes Shifting Attitudes About Preserving and Promoting Nature
About half the U.S. states don’t have a national park — including Oklahoma.
That wasn’t always the case, and the story of what happened illustrates a changing view of what national parks are for.
Lake Texoma State Park was once one of Oklahoma’s most popular parks. Then much of it was sold to a private development firm that has yet to fulfill its promise to build multi-million dollar resort.
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.
Dripping Springs State Park won’t be a state park much longer.
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.