A multi-million dollar development is in the works on Keystone Lake. The City of Mannford is leasing one of its campgrounds to a private developer.
The mayor says that means the city will get 3 percent of the income and even more in tax revenue.
“If you're not advancing, you're falling behind,” Mayor Tyler Buttram says.
Right now the sign at the entrance about the only new thing at Jellystone Park. That's because developers say they have not broken ground on the $4.5 million project just yet.
Bulldozers and all the other equipment are ready and waiting for construction to begin in a few weeks, but in the meantime, Jellystone Park, the campground known for years as Salt Creek, is open for business.
“We're fishing and camping,” Tulsa resident Matthew Long said.
Long is spending a few days in the outdoors with his family and dogs. It's a spot he's come to all his life, also the perfect place for him to sport his great, big sombrero.
“This is my shade tree. My portable shade tree,” he said.
It won't be long before there are more options than just big hats and Keystone Lake to keep cool.
“We'll have water slides; we'll have swimming pools; we'll have spray ground areas - all of those things are planned to go in over a period of time,” Jellystone Park Owner Beth Ryan said.
Ryan and her husband are developing the property, something they did at an RV Park in Pennsylvania where, according to Ryan, 15,000 guests visited each summer.
“I think we're going to be very happy here in Oklahoma. We were at our last park for 25 years, and I don't see why won't be here for that long,” Ryan said.
Now they're planting their roots and $4.5 million in Mannford.
Ryan says Jellystone Park will feature a miniature golf course, a floating water playground, a camp store and a dozens of log cabins - just to name a few.
“All of this area that we're standing in now is gonna be completely redeveloped as the center island for the activity for an activity island,” Ryan said.
All the improvements mean the price to visit will go up. Once complete, overnight camping with all day access to the water park will cost a family of four $60.
A day pass will run $15 per person.
“It pays for the grass mowing, the electric and all of the things that cost us to run a business,” Ryan said.
All the extras - in addition to higher fees - have some locals and longtime Salt Creek campers concerned.
“We like the natural, raw camping experience, don't exactly come to the lake for the water park,” Long said.
Long's 11-year-old stepdaughter, however, loves the idea of added amenities.
“I'm the kind of person that loves to have fun, not just sitting down being bored. I like to have fun and I think it'd be fun to go there,” Jocelynn Sigala said.
It's all in the name of progress, the mayor, says.
Once complete, Buttram says park alone is expected to pump $150,000 into the town's economy each year, compared the $60,000 to $70,000 average it's getting now.
“It'll bring in tons of new dollars to the community, which will allow us to pave more roads, build more parks and give back to the people,” Buttram said. “We want to be a tourist destination. We want to be a spot on the map that people point at and say, 'We want to come to Mannford.'”
The campground was flooded for the first part of the summer season, pushing back the construction start date.
“It really delayed us by a couple of months to break ground and get planning because we couldn't bring anyone in to do development, we couldn't even access the park, we couldn't see anything,” Ryan said.
Ryan hopes to break ground on the swimming pool by August 1. She says the plan is to have the pool, the water playground and some of the cabins open by next summer.
Jellystone Park won't be completely finished for another few years.