Potential cuts could strike 16 state parks from Oklahoma's budget

Buffalo roam at Foss Lake State Park in this undated file photo. (KOKH/FILE)

Several Oklahoma state parks could be cut from the budget as the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department looks to reduce its spending.

Following the state's second revenue failure in two years, the tourism department was asked if it could make cuts of 14.5 percent, or more than $2.5 million, for Fiscal Year 2018.

In a letter to employees, obtained by FOX 25, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department Executive Director Dick Dutton outlined four items the department could "hypothetically" cut from its budget to reach 14.5 percent.

"Unfornately since 2009, tourism has already been cut 38% and we've had $13.5 million swept from revolving funds. So there's not a lot of extra funds to go around," said OTRD spokesperson, Leslie Blair.

Dutton named 16 Oklahoma state parks that would need to be removed from the system, including the following parks:

  • Talimena
  • Great Plains State Park
  • Cherokee Landing State Park
  • Natural Falls State Park
  • Red Rock Canyon State Park
  • Great Salt Plains State Park
  • Lake Eufaula State Park
  • Lake Wister State Park
  • Alabaster Caverns State Park
  • McGee Creek State Park
  • Foss Lake State Park
  • Osage Hills State Park
  • Greenleaf State Park
  • Lake Texoma State Park
  • Grand Lake State Parks
  • Boiling Springs State Park

"This is something we're hoping to avoid," Blair said. "We realize that this was the proposal the appropriations chair woman has thrown out, saying if Common Ed is held harmless and they fund teacher pay raise, every other agency in the state is looking at a 14.5% budget cuts."

Dutton also stated that one state park golf course, the Grand Cherokee Golf Course, would need to be removed from the budget. The magazine Oklahoma Today would also be discontinued. The department has also transferred operations of the Miami Travel Information Center to the City of Miami.

In all, the hypothetical cuts would impact 80 positions in the department.

OTRD's Fiscal Year for 2017 was $17,3335,554. In the Fiscal Year for 2016, the 16 parks on the list brought in $3,398,550 in revenue and 2,778,658 visitors.

"The tourism industry as a whole in the state of Oklahoma is about a $8.6 billion industry and that's all direct travel spending," said Blair.

The agency also reported $7,145,785 in operating cost for those parks.

We've Got Your Back with the reason these 16 parks were chosen.

"These are lower on the visitation scale, lower on the self sufficiencies, lower in revenue," Blair said.

In the letter, Dutton stresses that the cuts are hypothetical and only done to provide information to state lawmakers.

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