With soft rollouts this week at Lake Murray and Great Plains State Parks, Oklahoma’s park visitors are learning the ropes of paying their way to the great outdoors.
Twenty more parks will require the fee payment beginning June 15 through an online app that literally is a parking fee collection site at premiumparking.com or by text or at a payment machine available at some parks.
The function of the online payment system is similar to other parking apps or online camping reservation system where the user sets up an account, which includes vehicle identification, sets a password and selects payment options.
“It will all be online there are no physical transactions that will happen at the parks. It’s all through the web site or the app,” said Leslie Blair, public information officer with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation. “We’re just bringing awareness to it at the moment (with the soft rollout). We have the signs up and we’re working with visitors coming into the parks, teaching them about the system and how to use it.”
With an annual budget nearly half of what it was in 2009, plans for a fee structure were announced in 2019 and were to launch early this spring but were delayed slightly due to coronavirus interruptions, she said.
Blair said a recent analysis showed the park system has more than $1 billion in assets statewide.
“Just to maintain that takes about $39.4 million a year and we know state parks is not going to get $40 million from the legislature each year,” she said. “The fees will generate revenue to maintain and improve the parks. All of the fees are going to go back into the parks for maintenance and improvements.”
Oklahoma Department of Tourism has projected the fees will bring in roughly $10 million annually.
Oklahoma was one of few state parks systems not to charge fees. Officials set the fee structure based on comparisons with facilities in surrounding states and at federally managed sites in Oklahoma, she said. Many of the state’s smaller parks, and parks that already charge special use fees, will not charge parking fees.
State Parks expects to experience some kinks with the new system, as with any new program, “but we’re ready to roll this out,” Blair said. “People will get used to it.”
As a parking fee, the fee applies only to those who stop and use the park grounds or facilities so those who drive through parks to access homes other areas need not worry, she said.
Parking fees also will be waived at golf courses and some concessionaire areas, she said. Fees also are waived for vehicles of honorably discharged veterans and their spouses and those driven by Oklahoma residents age 62 or older and their spouses. Visitors certified with disabilities under state or federal law receive a 50% discount, she said.
Parking fees will be included as part of future park camping reservation fees so no additional purchase will be required for campers, she said.
Park staff and park rangers will verify parking status and enforce the rules at all times, she said. Vehicles without valid passes may be subject to warnings, violation notices, towing and/or other enforcement measures.
The basic one-day parking fee for a vehicle with an Oklahoma license plate is $8. There is an option for three-day or weekly fees at a park as well. An annual parking fee is available for $60 that can be used at any park. Non-residents pay 20 percent more — $10 a day or $75 a year. Parking fees are purchased per-vehicle, so a family that uses more than one vehicle at parks would need to pay the fee for each car or truck that will be used in the parks, she said.
People can find a link to the payment system on each state park page at TravelOK.com, go directly to premiumparking.com and enter the state park location, or download the app at premiumparking.com/mobile-parking.
Another option allows visitors to text a code listed on signage at individual parks to 504504. The code takes visitors to a web site to pay online or to download a text-pay app at premiumparking.com/text-pay.
Parks also will have pay machines available at park officers or other locations inside the parks.
The parking pass requirement will be enforced 24/7 by park staff and park rangers. Vehicles without valid passes may be subject to warnings, violation notices, towing and/or other enforcement measures.