Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: February 28, 2014
Senate gives bipartisan unanimous approval
to ‘Rural Tourism Protection Act’
The full Senate voted 40-0 Thursday in favor of legislation
requiring advance notice before state parks can be closed. Sen.
presented SB 1959 both in committee and on the floor. The measure,
authored by Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, and co-authored by Ellis,
D-Valliant, would require the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department
to notify local governments before closing any state park, parkland
or public recreation facility within the state agency’s jurisdiction.
“In 2013, the Oklahoma Tourism Commission voted to take away
the status of Hugo State Park. That would have been devastating
to our local economy,” Ellis said. “Hugo State Park
survived the axe, but the year before, seven other state parks were
not so lucky, and all of them were located in rural Oklahoma. People
need to remember—as goes rural Oklahoma, so goes Oklahoma.
Simply shutting down these parks with no warning and without giving
our rural areas adequate opportunity to make their case will ultimately
hurt the whole state.”
The legislation would require Tourism to provide 60 days’
notice to the governing authority of each municipality and county
that was home to a state park or similar facility that was slated
for closure or to have its operating hours slashed by 50 percent
or more. The notice must be made in writing and sent to the chairperson
of the county commissioners and the mayor of the municipality.
“The Department of Tourism is about promoting and helping
support destinations and activities that can boost our economy—but
I am here to tell you that rural Oklahoma is just as important to
that mission as our metropolitan areas,” Ellis said. “The
dollars spent by tourists in our rural communities are vital to
their ability to grow, prosper, and attract and keep jobs and workers.”
SB 1959 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Ellis: (405) 521-5614