Stimulus Money Pays for Oklahoma Park Upgrades
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- National Parks throughout the U.S. are expected to receive $750 million of federal stimulus funds. The money must be spent within 18 months, which could be difficult seeing as the most the National Park Service has spent in that timeframe is around $230 million.
Most of the funds being spent on national parks in Oklahoma will go toward the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which plans on spending $522,000 to improve the park.
"Oh we grew up here. This is just where we've spent all our time. We always bring the kids down here," said Sheri Slaughter.
About 1.3 million people come to the park each year. The number is expected to grow as visitors continue to look for low cost recreation. Each visitor means a bit of wear and tear on the park.
"There's needed infrastructure work that's sort of been waiting in line for quite some time," said Park Ranger Eric Leonard.
The park is well-known for its natural springs and waterfall pool, Little Niagra.
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"Many of the shovel-ready projects have been a longtime coming," said Park Ranger Eric Leonard. "For instance, the Tranvertine Nature Center has needed a new air and heat system for at least 10 years now. The building is about to turn 40-years-old."
Other projects include trail improvements and rehabilitation to comfort stations throughout the park. The projects are expected to make the park more energy efficient and provide work to contractors hired to complete the projects.
There may be those who think $750 million on national parks is unnecessary, but Leonard said people should look at the whole picture.
"The amount of money spent year in and year out on national parks is literally one tenth of one percent of the federal budget, a very small amount," said Park Ranger Leonard. "If we can provide a safe and inexpensive place where Americans can come have a good time, there is something noble in that."
The other Oklahoma national park set to get funds is the Washita Battlefield, with $37,000 to fix fencing.