State Park Usage Jumps Over Labor Day Weekend

Wednesday, September 5th 2007, 10:31 am
By: News On 6

LAKE TEXOMA, Okla. (AP) _ The use of Oklahoma state parks over the Labor Day weekend rose 10% when compared to last year's Labor Day weekend.

State Tourism Director Hardy Watkins said at least 92% of the state's 600 available rooms and cabins were occupied. The preliminary figures of those renting spots at state parks does not include Lake Texoma State Park, where the state lodge closed in December, or 10 lodge rooms at Roman Nose State Resort near Watonga that are closed because of flooding damage.

``It was, in essence, a replacement weekend for the rest of the summer,'' Watkins said. ``As a Tuesday morning quarterback, we had a good weekend across the system.''

At Lake Texoma, where flooding all but wiped out the Independence Day holiday and most potential business in August, two of three campgrounds are now open. They were at full capacity over the Labor Day weekend, although business around Lake Texoma _ which separates Oklahoma and Texas _ was down about a third from a typical Labor Day weekend.

``It was just like old times,'' said Sherri Williams, the manager of Catfish Bay Marina near Kingston. ``It was a great shot in the arm, but one weekend versus an entire summer is not enough.''

Williams said the flooding aftermath wasn't the only reason for the drop in business. She also cited the start of the football season on the holiday weekend and the closing of the Lake Texoma State Lodge, which was done to allow private developers to start work on a proposed high-end destination that could include new homes and lodging. That process could take several years.

``Let's say next year we've got perfect weather,'' she said. ``We're still going to feel the effects of that.''

Scott Hayward, the assistant general manager at Highport Resort and Marina in Pottsboro, Texas _ another lakeside community _ estimated that businesses within a 20-mile radius of the lake have lost at least $600 million in revenue from lost holiday weekends this year.

``When you lose two-thirds of your major holidays, it makes you grow gray hair,'' Hayward said. ``I feel like we only had one leg under us.''