OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With the pandemic, thousands of Oklahomans are expected to stay close to home this year for a summer vacation.
If they are visiting a state park, it could cost more than they originally thought. Starting this week, most state parks will begin charging parking fees.
“To add another fee on top of a fee on top of a fee, I think is ridiculous,” said Shawn Thomas Boswell, of Norman.
Some state park goers are upset about a new required daily parking pass, but others say they see reasons for the fees.
“I agree with it for the simple fact that the parks do need to be taken care of so that we can enjoy them when we get here,” said Jillian Palmer, of Newalla.
The new pass will go into effect June 15 at 22 parks across the state.
The pass can be purchased online or at kiosks on site. It will cost $10 a day for out-of-state visitors and $8 for Oklahomans.
But why are there fees when parks are funded by the state?
“We have seen significant decrease in our appropriation and cuts to our capital improvement funds,” said Leslie Blair, with Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation.
Officials says state parks have $1 billion in assets, like buildings, lodges and campsites. They say roughly $40 million a year is needed just to maintain them.
“With the way the budget system is, state parks is never going to get a $40 million capital infusion each year,” said Blair.
The Frederick, Oklahoma native says the new fees will go directly to the park where the money is collected.
“We know there are areas that need to be upgraded, and once we do get things upgraded, they need to be maintained. We want to make sure our park system is a top ten park system,” said Blair.
A yearly pass can be purchased for $60 for Oklahoma residents. Blair says surrounding states have similar fees for their parks, and there are federal and city parks in Oklahoma that charge visitors.
“I understand, I see it all around me, that they are needing a little bit of help. I understand that they are having problems financially, but so are a lot of citizens,” said Genette Gary, of Norman.
Those who are disabled, veterans or people over 62 years old will still get into the parks for free.