Wister Lake State park funding


I’ve been getting a lot of questions from constituents recently about the parking fees being charged at Lake Wister State Park. So, I set up a meeting with David White, the director of public information and government affairs at the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, and Angela Bohanon, park manager of Lake Wister and Talimena State Parks.

I asked for a detailed accounting of how much money has been collected since the OTRD started charging parking fees in 2020 as well as a rundown of how the money is being spent. 

Parking at the parks costs $8 per car per visit for Oklahomans and $10 for out-of-state visitors. Of that fee, 25 cents goes to Premium Parking Co. out of Louisiana, hired by OTRD to manage the financial transactions. This is similar to credit card fees charged every time a card is used as there’s bookwork involved in managing each transaction. The remaining $7.75 stays with the park.

For Fiscal Year 2021 (July 2020 – June 2021), Lake Wister received approximately $24,000 in parking pass revenue. For the current fiscal year, the park has received approximately $34,000 to date, $8,000 in April alone – that’s 1,000 cars.

Here’s how the money’s been spent:

  • $18.500 for 50 fire rings and 50 charcoal grills
  • $14,200 for metal roofing on six pavilions
  • $7,300 for sleeper sofas for three cabins
  • $6,700 on mulch and mats for playgrounds
  • $3,000 on new mattresses for 10 cabins

Parking fees also were used to help pay for eight new bathrooms at the park, which cost $100,000 each.  

OTRD leases the 3,428-acre Lake Wister Park from the Army Corps of Engineers, but at no fee. The department is allowed to operate outdoor recreation so long as they follow the rules set down by the Corps to protect the infrastructure of the lake and not to interfere with their mission of flood control, which is why the lake was built in the first place.

The park also is an archaeological site as it contains tribal burial grounds. So, any time OTRD wants to add boat docks or ramps or anything else, they first have to get permission from the tribes, the Archaeological Society and the Corps.

I was satisfied with the answers I got about the parking fees. Bohanon is new to her position, but from what I can tell she’s doing a great job. I appreciated her responsiveness to me and her willingness to share information about how the parking fees are being spent locally.

Lake Wister State Park is a great place to visit. The park offers beautiful scenery, a 7,300-acre lake with a swimming beach and lighted boat ramps and it’s big enough for water skiing. There’s also hiking and nature trails, camping, bicycling, picnicking, fishing and hunting. There’s a water spray park, a nature center and a nearby waterfowl refuge, as well as a playground and miniature golf course. 

Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio at 7:30 a.m. every Thursday for my legislative update.

As always, if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at rick.west@okhouse.gov.  

Rick West serves District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes part of LeFlore County.

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