Using a Feasibility Study as a Management Tool: A Case Study of Oklahoma State Park Lodges

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Lodges are iconic symbols for many national and state parks and are viewed as part of a recreational experience or park visit for many park visitors. Many state park systems in the United States operate cabins/cottages or lodges on their properties. Cabins and lodges, like all facilities, require extensive start-up capital investment combined with longterm operation and maintenance expense, although they generate significant revenue for park operations and often have great economic impacts to the local communities. Facing the demands of effective management and financial security, a carefully evaluated, designed, and implemented operational reform based on the characteristics and operation structure of state park system is warranted. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the use of feasibility analysis as a management tool to determine the values, challenges, and impacts of operating lodges within Oklahoma State Parks. Lake Murray Lodge, Sequoyah Lodge, and Lakeview Lodge in the Oklahoma state park system were selected for investigation. The results showed that the selected lodges are located in rural, economically challenging areas with adequate access to these facilities through interstate, federal, and state highways. As for marketing analysis, the majority of cabin and lodge guests self-identify as individuals with family and friends. Due to the geographic locations of the study subjects, more than one-half of the Lake Murray and Lakeview lodge guests have been out-of-state visitors, mostly from Texas, while two-thirds of the Sequoyah Lodge guests were in-state visitors. The financial analysis in the feasibility study indicated that the revenue performance of the Oklahoma state park lodges was slightly lower than the national average for publicly operated lodges according to data from the National Association of State Park Directors, whereas the lodges clearly contribute in creating job opportunities, improving personal income, and generating added value to the local community. In a state in which lodges were constructed and financed through state appropriations, lodge-generated revenue was close to, but not yet fully covering operational costs. It is undeniable that the lodges in the parks were perceived as true public goods, the most equitable approach, and traditional services of state government of great importance to the citizenry. Three suggestions of applying a feasibility study in practice resulted from this project: (1) finding the most effective and efficient way to conduct a feasibility study, (2) importance of established professional relationships, (3) following the general structural and crafting details for different study subjects, and (4) focusing on collaborative team work.

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The Journal of Park and Recreation Administration





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