Yesterday, the House voted to pass a bill to allow the Oklahoma Tourism Commission to construct a new lodge at one of the state’s parks.
Senate Bill 1913, sponsored by Senator Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, and Representative Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, would allow the commission to utilize up to $15 million in funds to construct and maintain a new lodge at Murray State Park. Since the money is already in a trust fund and is not appropriated, it will have no fiscal impact to state appropriations.
The trust fund, which currently has a balance of $18 million, is funded through mineral lease payments, royalties, and other accounts associated with oil and gas at state parks.
Before its passage in the House on Tuesday, the bill’s fate looked grim. Last week, the House voted to lay the bill over until further notice. However, after a push from OPEA, the House took up the measure again this week, where it passed by a vote of 75-16.
Sterling Zearley, the executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, praised the bill’s passage.
“OPEA has fought for Murray State Park for almost a decade,” Zearley said. “It’s clear that OPEA provided the final push to get this bill on the governor’s desk, and we are excited about the changes ahead for Lake Murray.”
Zearley, who worked at the Oklahoma Tourism Department for 23 years before coming to OPEA, said state parks play a valuable role in Oklahoma’s economy.
“Spending money to make parks more attractive will appeal to people who want to get away for the weekend or for a nice vacation close to home,” he said. “That can only help Oklahoma’s economy.”