Those who use the campgrounds at our state parks should be prepared for some hikes.
These might not be the kind of hikes we necessarily enjoy — an increase of campsite base rates — but it definitely the kind that is needed if we want to keep our parks “viable after decades of underfunding.” According to state tourism officials, it’s either pay up or shut down some parks.
It would be much wiser to invest in our state parks and keep them open than to shut them down. And if an investment is needed, it is not unfair to ask those who use and enjoy the parks to contribute a little bit more for the privilege of access — and to pay for upkeep of the amenities.
An estimated 9.3 million people visited Oklahoma state parks, generating annual revenue of about $26 million — that is but a fraction of their overall economic impact. Those park visitors spend a lot more money outside the parks, supporting an estimated 100,000 jobs across the state and generating $627 million in state and local tax revenue.
There likely will be some who oppose fee increases of any kind. There may even be some who would rather close state parks and convey them to private ownership. Both of those options would be shortsighted and unwise.
Publicly accessible land already is in short supply, and demand will only grow greater as years pass. Higher campsite fees are justified — let’s just make sure the increased revenue doesn’t get hijacked and is plowed back in to our parks to make them even more appealing.