Oklahoma ending lease with Walnut Creek State Park

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 11, 2014 at 9:46 am •  Published: July 11, 2014
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PRUE, Okla. (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation has announced it will end its lease for Walnut Creek State Park in northeastern Oklahoma, citing a drop in state funding as the reason for the cutback.

The park in Osage County costs more to maintain than it brings in in revenue, leading the agency to terminate its lease Sept. 1 with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, said tourism department spokeswoman Leslie Blair.

"Visitation and revenue were very low," Blair said. "And there was not a lot of opportunity to increase that revenue."

Ending the lease early will save the state $100,000 — much-needed money for the department, which has seen a 26 percent drop in state funding since 2009, Blair said. She said the department is also considering closing or selling Little Blue-Disney State Park, Snowdale State Park and the Spring River canoe trails near Miami to save money.

The Corps said it's exploring options on how to keep the Walnut Creek park open, including finding alternate funding or another agency to operate the park. If neither of those work out, the park would close Sept. 1, officials said.

"The ultimate goal is to keep the park open and operational for the visiting public," said Sara Goodeyon, deputy chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Robert Page, who was camping this week at Walnut Creek, said the park is a peaceful place to visit, but few people know about it.

"I really hope they find someone to take it over or just change their mind and keep it open. Advertise it a little. Let people know it's here," he said.