Tourism officials assessing impact of bridge collapse

Friday, June 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tourism officials believe it may be too early to tell whether the number of visitors frequenting state parks that depend heavily on Interstate 40 travelers has declined since the deadly bridge collapse near Webbers Falls.

``We know that at our Sallisaw welcome center, we have about 30 percent fewer people stopping than before the bridge collapsed,'' Jane Jayroe, executive director of the department, said Thursday.

Jayroe said she has received many phone calls from people in the area who are concerned about reports telling tourists to ``avoid Oklahoma altogether.''

The I-40 detour routes are much quicker than detours across the state, Jayroe said.

``There's not a real extended wait. There's a longer wait going from west to east than east to west, but I don't think the time limits are as extended as some may think,'' she said.

Jayroe said it's difficult and maybe too early to gauge the overall economic effect of the bridge collapse on facilities like Arrowhead, Fountainhead, Greenleaf and Tenkiller.

Park officials say they have not noticed a drastic decrease in tourists.

``Of course, with that terrible tragedy, we don't really think much about that,'' said Steve Williams, manager of Greenleaf and Tenkiller state parks.

Tourism officials have issued routes for those trying to get to eastern Oklahoma state parks.

For eastbound I-40 travelers:

_ Greenleaf and Tenkiller State Parks can be reached by taking the Warner exit (278) to northbound State Highway 2 and then traveling east on U.S. 64 to Gore. Take Oklahoma Highway 100 northeast from Gore to reach Tenkiller; taken State Highway 10 north from Gore to get to Greenleaf.

_ Tahlequah and the Illinois River recreation area can be reached by taking exit 264 and getting on northbound U.S. 69 to Muskogee, where motorists can take eastbound U.S. 62 to Fort Gibson and Tahlequah.

For westbound travelers:

_ Those coming in from Arkansas can take the Vian exit (297) and get on northbound Oklahoma Highway 82 for about eight miles. To get to Tenkiller, drivers should take Oklahoma Highway 100 west. To get to Greenleaf, drivers should take Oklahoma Highway 100 west about six miles to State Highway 10A northwest.

_ Arkansas motorists trying to reach Arrowhead and Fountainhead State Parks and Lake Eufaula can take exit 308 south on U.S. 59 from I-40 about 15 miles. To reach Arrowhead, drivers should take westbound Oklahoma Highway 9 to State Highway 9A, where they head southwest to southbound U.S. 69.

To reach Fountainhead, motorists should take westbound Oklahoma 9 to Eufaula, the get on northbound U.S. 69 to northbound State Highway 150.

_ Arkansas travelers trying to get to Tahlequah and the Illinois River recreation area should not expect detours; nor should eastbound travelers to Arrowhead and Fountainhead.

Those coming from northern Texas and southern Oklahoma travelers bound for Muskogee, Fort Gibson and Tahlequah are not affected by detours.

The signed detour for eastbound I-40 allows travelers to exit at Warner (278), go south on Oklahoma 2 for 17 miles, then east on State Highway 9 for 28 miles. They then go north on U.S. 59 for 15 miles to I-40. The eastbound detour is about 60 miles.

The signed detour for westbound I-40 takes drivers northbound on Oklahoma 10 (exit 291), west on U.S. 64 and south on Oklahoma 100 to I-40. The westbound detour is about seven miles.