Oklahoma Park Rangers Work To Clear Debris As Water Recedes

Tuesday, June 9th 2015, 6:42 pm
By: Tess Maune

The break from the rain is bringing much-needed relief to our Green Country lakes. Many lakes, creeks and rivers were outside their banks just a few weeks ago.

The water is finally receding, but it's going to take time before the banks are back to normal.

Keystone Lake has dropped about five feet in just the past few days, but before it gets back to looking normal, there's a lot of debris to get rid of and work to be done.

5/28/2015 Related Story: Keystone Lake Still Rising; Corps Increases Dam Outflow

Corps of Engineers Park Ranger, Eric Bonnell, said logs, twisted branches and entire trees have washed to the shoreline at Keystone Lake's Walnut Creek Park.

“All the debris you see here has come from the Arkansas River,” he said.

Cleaning up the debris is just the beginning for park rangers like Bonnell.

Pushing all the wood into burn piles is the best way to get rid of the mess, but, keep in mind, this is only one of almost ten parks managed by the Corps of Engineers on Keystone, and it's just a few miles stretch of more than 300 miles of shoreline.

“We'll probably have the parks cleaned up within a few months. The rest of it, we'll probably slowly burn when we're in our offseason and try to clean some of the shorelines up,” Bonnell said.

But clearing debris isn't the only job rangers are overseeing. Bonnell said it's been pretty non-stop.

Corps workers haven't had a day off in about a month, splitting their work into 12-hour shifts - a cycle that will continue until the lake levels fall three more feet.

“We've been monitoring the dam, reading piezometers, doing dam inspections and then when we're not doing that we're out in the parks cleaning up,” Bonnell said.

The high water has made for an unusually quiet lake season, for residents like Justin McDaniel.

“It's nice, it's enjoyable. There's not many people you're fighting over a spot on the water for,” he said.

Almost all the boat ramps on Keystone are closed, but one at Pier 51 is up and running, and the anglers are anxious to get their lines out in the water.

“A bunch of cats, big cats,” McDaniel said. “We're hoping to pull a few of them 30-40s out.”

Those like Bonnell, who are working non-stop to make the lake look pristine, hope the water doesn't drop too far.

“We're gonna do our best to try and have things open as soon as we can and hopefully pick up where everybody wanted to leave off,” said Bonnell.

Keystone Lake is still open, but the Corps said the lake likely won't be functioning as it would in a normal summer until around the Fourth of July.