All Seven Oklahoma State Parks Slated For Closure To Remain Open

Friday, August 12th 2011, 6:13 pm
By: News On 6 & Emily Baucum, News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Seven Oklahoma state parks that were supposed to shut down this fall because of budget cuts will remain open.

The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says handing over management of several parks saved the state $700,000.

Several cities and tribal governments will take over management of all seven parks.

  1. Heavener Runestone State Park - City of Heavener has already assumed operation.
  2. Boggy Depot State Park – the Chickasaw Nation will begin managing it on August 16th.
  3. Beaver Dunes State Park - now operated jointly by the City of Beaver and Pioneer Parks.
  4. Brushy Lake State Park - City of Sallisaw owns and will now manage it.
  5. Lake Eucha State Park - owned by the City of Tulsa, who will operate it beginning August 16th.
  6. Adair State Park - owned by the City of Stilwell and will be operated by Adair County beginning September 15th.
  7. Wah-Sha-She State Park - owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns; will be operated by the Osage Nation after September 31st.

That means people who work the parks will be relocated and some of them aren't happy about it.

In a statement, the Director of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says "Not a single employee was laid off; each one was offered the same position and the same salary at another state park where we had an opening."

Court documents show employees who work at those facilities were hand-delivered letters that revealed each worker's new work assignment, starting this Tuesday, August 16th.

The letter says "Failure to report for duty.... may result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge."

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association says seven state park employees came forward with complaints.

"We've got folks that have lived in that community for 25, 30 years and they don't want to relocate to another park facility," Sterling Zearley, with OPEA, said.

OPEA says transferring to different state parks would put "undue hardship" on those workers "because of increased commuting time."

"That employee has to make a decision whether to relocate, retire or quit." Zearley said. "So basically you just quit without getting a severance package."

OPEA says that's against state law and filed an emergency motion to stop the transfers. An Oklahoma County district court judge denied it.

"Really I don't think he had enough information. He wanted to halt it and go to a full-blown hearing," Zearley said.

The judge gave both OPEA and the Tourism Department more time to prepare their cases.

The Tourism Department's director applauded the judge's decision saying "Every dollar we have to spend defending against a lawsuit is a dollar that can't go to support tourism and recreation in Oklahoma."

05/18/2011 Related Story: Oklahomans, Lawmakers Rally To Save State Parks