Oklahoma Considers Entry Fees At State Parks

Thursday, December 26th 2019, 9:53 pm
By: Erick Payne

State leaders are making some changes to Oklahoma’s state parks, and are looking at making visitors pay at some of them to get in.

If the Oklahoma Department of Tourism goes through with the proposal, entrance fees could be in place as early as this spring.

The State Department of Tourism tells me this is part of an effort to modernize the parks system and boost revenue. The idea has gotten mixed reactions from those who use the parks.

Tenkiller State Park, Lake Eufaula and Sequoyah are among the parks that could have an entrance fee. The price hasn't been decided yet, but would likely fall between $8 and $12 for each car.

"I think it would be incredible for the state," Melissa Jumper said.

Jumper lives just a few miles away from Tenkiller, and comes here all the time with her kids.

“I'm local, so this is a good outlet for them to come and play,” Jumper said.

She tells me it would bring in money to help with cleanup from floods, and park beautification.

“I think it's a plus, but a lot of people won't,” Jumper said.

One of those people is the president of the Greater Tenkiller Area Association. He wrote a letter to the state outlining his concerns about the entry fee idea - ending with "it will likely significantly reduce visitation to Tenkiller State Park."

But, Leslie Blair with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism said fees like these are needed to keep facilities open after decades of underfunding.

“Oklahoma doesn't have that type of mechanism to fund parks, so what we're looking at is a per vehicle fee,” Blair said.

There isn't a full list yet, but Blair says they're looking at entry fees at 52 of the 117 state park entrances. This would put Oklahoma in line with neighboring states and their state parks.

Melissa Jumper has been to plenty of those, and said that's what she hopes will be the future here.

“They’re nice, clean, safe environments. Not to say Oklahoma’s isn't, but I think we could make some progress in that department,” Jumper said. “In the end result, it's going to be way worth it.”

They're still working through the process, so nothing is finalized yet.

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