SKIATOOK, Oklahoma - Work is well underway on a mission to transform a long neglected scenic overlook in Green Country into something special. It will help veterans and first responders who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's the nation's first Partners for Hope project, and it's happening now at Skiatook Lake.

Over the past few decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hasn't had the federal funding to maintain, let alone make improvements to scenic overlooks and other areas on Corps lakes, but thanks to a public-private partnership starting in Oklahoma, that could change.

At Skiatook Lake's scenic overlook, crews are disassembling a part of the structure that's been deteriorating over the years.

"Some people called it the overlooked, because it had not been able to have been kept up,” said Ron Howell with Partners For Heroes.

It's not overlooked anymore. With financial contributions, donations of labor, and good deals on building materials, the nonprofit group Partners for Heroes is transforming the overlook, which hasn't seen much attention.

"Not near collapsed, but it's certainly highly degraded. Another ten years it would not have been a safe building anymore,” Howell said.

It's the first location nationwide at a Corps lake getting fixed up to give veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress a recreational getaway.

Crews are also busy clearing away trees to improve the view.

"According to the doctors, with this horribly high suicide rate and all of the depression that comes from this kind of heroic service, the best healing isn't out of a bottle, it's being next to nature and water,” said Howell.

When the veterans and first responders aren't using the new facility in Skiatook, which will be finished in November, the public will have access.

A second Partners For Heroes project will start at Arcadia Lake near Edmond this fall.

Crowdfunding through the National Park and Recreation Association's Fund Your Park Campaign is helping to pay for it, with a goal of finishing this spring.

"Our mission is to provide these sites and then to work with these organizations that are working with our heroes, and let nature help them heal,” Howell said.

Organizers said if the private sector steps up to help, like what's happening at Skiatook Lake, there could be 30 to 40 of the Partners For Heroes sites at corps of engineers lakes across the nation over the next ten years.

For more information for builders, contractors, community groups or anyone wanting to donate to the project, you can visit Partners For Heroes'
or email
.