House passes bill lowering State Park fees for area residents

By Rep. Tammy Townley
For the Ardmoreite
Tammy Townley serves District 48 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Carter, Garvin and Murray counties.

By Rep. Tammy Townley

With last week’s deadline to pass House bills through the House now behind us, the House will now begin considering Senate bills, and vice versa. One House bill I am eager to see signed into law is House Bill 1681, on which I’m a co-author.

Currently, parking fees are implemented for state parks across the state. There is an $8 charge per day per vehicle for Oklahoma residents ($10 for out of state plates), or a $60 charge per year per vehicle for in-state residents ($75 for out-of-state visitors) to visit any state park.

However, I’ve heard from many of my constituents that these fees have been discouraging them from visiting their local state park as regularly as they’re used to. They are being asked to pay to visit the parks they’ve grown up at that are practically in their own backyard, when the parks have been free all their lives.

For locals in the area who spend several days a week at their nearby state park, asking them to pay an extra $8 a day is too much of an expense and discourages them from visiting their park to fish, hike or visit their houseboat. They have no interest in paying the current fee of $60 each year to visit any state park multiple times, because they only ever visit one state park and one park only: the one closest to their home.

That’s where HB 1681 can help. House Bill 1681 would add an additional tier to the fee schedule for entering state parks in Oklahoma by inserting an option of paying $20 per year per vehicle to visit one single park for state residents only.

This legislation is truly a great solution for Oklahomans who only wish to visit one park, like I know many constituents in House District 48 would like to do.

While we want to encourage tourism across Oklahoma, we also want to respect those who simply want to stick close to home and visit the wonderful parks they are blessed to have in their own backyards. In House District 48, we are blessed to have the beautiful Lake Murray, and I truly understand why so many of my constituents and neighbors have no desire to travel anywhere else!

I fully understand the need to maintain restrooms, buildings and the parking area at our state parks, but at least this would give local residents the option to pay the much more reasonable yearly fee.

I encourage any Oklahomans who are interested in this new policy to email the chair of the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee, Sen. James Leewright, at james.leewright@oksenate.gov.

As you draft your email, please be kind and courteous when requesting that the committee hear HB1681. After all, you catch more flies with honey!