Impact of sewer problems at Sequoyah State Park

Wednesday, June 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The sewer systems at three of our state parks are in a state of disrepair. The worst problem is at nearby Sequoyah State Park on Fort Gibson Lake.

As News on Six reporter Steve Berg explains, if they can't get it fixed, part of the park may be shut down. State tourism officials say the park is a victim of its own popularity, and lack of funding from the Legislature. The sewage lagoons can't keep up with the number of visitors, and there's no money to fix it. "Just to put it in perspective, $11.6-million is what we need to fix these problems, our entire appropriated budget annually for the state legislature is only about $14-million."

The State Tourism Department's Ron Stahl says they've known about the problem for almost ten years, but couldn't get money from the legislature when the economy was good, much less now. Now there's only one way to solve the sewage problem. "The only way that can be accomplished would be by closing those facilities, closing the guest ranch and limiting water usage in the park."

On July 10th, they plan to close down all the permanent restrooms and showers. But an even bigger concern is they plan to close down the Western Hills State Lodge and cabins. The riding stables, marina, and golf course will stay open along with the various boat ramps. The state will bring in portable toilets so people can still camp and bring in RV's, but that's a far cry from the cabins where people like Jim Brunk have enjoyed wedding anniversaries and family reunions. "My daughter's been calling every day, two or three times, she's missing the family reunion here and she has fond memories of coming here as a girl."

In nearby Wagoner, they're already worried about missing revenue. Ron Stahl, “About 75 percent of the visitors to the guest ranch come through Wagoner on the way here, so they buy things." Several million dollars worth of things per year. But if something isn't done, that too may be a fond memory.

State tourism officials say it could take up to two years to build new sewage lagoons. That's "if" they get the money. Tenkiller State Park and Lake Texhoma State Park also have problems, but they are not as severe as Sequoyah's.