Friday, March 11, 2011

Save the Runestone

There is no way of telling how many people have visited the Runestone State Park over the years.

Visitors from all over the country and the world have taken the time to travel the narrow road up Poteau Mountain to visit the park and see the carvings on the rock.

They also walk the trails, let the kids frolic on the playground equipment, use the campground facilities and enjoy a great view from the overlook.

The park holds many events each year such as the Bluegrass on the Mountain, an event organized by Curtis Howze which raises money for the Alzeheimer’s Association, easter egg hunts put on by the local veterans, along with family and school reunions, weddings, receptions or just a place to get away for a few minutes.

Locals use the road leading up to the park for exercise. Others hike the trails and enjoy the views and scenery, which you don’t get at any of the parks in and around Oklahoma City.

According to officials, over 100,000 people visit the park each year.

Sadly, unless something changes, there will be no more birthday parties, family reunions, weddings, charity events or easter egg hunts as the gate for the park will be closed on Aug. 15.

I have witnessed and seen many dumb things in my life, but closing the Runestone State Park is at the top.

Consider the following:

*The decision was announced last Friday, shortly before 5 p.m.;

*The director, Deby Snodgrass, decided to close the seven state parks;

*She should know, since Snodgrass had been on the job for less than a month and was appointed, not because of her vast experience with the Oklahoma parks, but because she was Gov. Mary Fallin’s inaugural chairwoman;

*Snodgrass touted the savings the state would receive from closing the park. $700,000! But all employees can transfer to other parks, so there will be no savings from personnel, which makes up most of the budget. Not counting personnel, operating expenses for the Runestone were expected to be $24,000 this year and revenue $20,000. That means the so-called savings are $4,000 to close a park which draws over 100,000 people to Heavener, LeFlore County and OKLAHOMA!;

*Sure, some of the visitors are local or from the area, but would we rather they went to Arkansas or Texas and spent their money? That money, incidentally, generates tax revenue and pays for stuff like salaries, such as that of the executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Parks Department;

*This is pure speculation, but maybe Snodgrass and her cronies thought the department would receive money from selling the state parks or leasing them out. Uh nope. The state or OTPD will not receive a penny from selling or leasing the Runestone. When the land was deeded over, one of the stipulations was if the state ever stopped using the land as a state park, it would go back to the heirs of Herbert Ward;

*In her press release, Snodgrass said the OTPD was in communication with local communities regarding the continued operation of the parks which will be closed. Ask Heavener officials how many times they have heard from Snodgrass. The answer? None;

*Like many others, I have sent emails to the OTPD and governor’s office. So far, nobody has responded.

Fortunately, our elected officials have been working to save the park. Both Rep. James Lockhart and Sen. Mark Allen have had meetings with Snodgrass and other key state officials. There are a lot of important people working behind the scenes.

So, what will happen at tonight’s meeting? Snodgrass is expected to attend, which will likely be her first visit to the Runestone. Hopefully, she will announce the right decision has been made to keep the Runestone open.

Will she announce the park will stay happen? Who knows. But it should.

1 comment:

  1. For the past three years my family has been sending most of our spring and fall breaks and summer time outtings in Oklahoma at our state parks. With gas prices being so high we decided to spend our time and money in Oklahoma. The Ruinstone state park is one of the many parks we have been to. The Ruinstone is a place that I went to while attending Carl Albert State College during the summer of 2009, along with Cedar lake state park. Our biology class went on field trips to these 2 state parks. Spring break of 2010 we went to Bartlesville and went to 2 state parks in that area. Fall of 2010 we went to Ruinstone state park as well as cedar lake state park. Spring break of 2011 was spent at Sulfer Springs at the Chickasaw state park and another state park in the area. During the summer we went back to cedar lake state park. This spring break we went to Natural Falls state park at West Siloam Springs, and just over the state line in Arkansas to Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to Robbers Cave state park several times, Sardis Lake in Clayton and several other parks in Oklahoma. These parks are not only recreational, they are educational and great fun and exercise. Our government has made a big deal about fitness, and getting children away from the T.V. and video games, so why close the state parks where families go for all the reasons listed above. After reading the reason for Ruinstone park being closed I find it ridiculous. To save $4,ooo., we spend money in each of these towns and cities in and near these parks, which in turn keeps people employed and generates taxes, which Snodgrass apparently never counted. I wonder if our Govenor had something to do with this! We are spending my son's 10th birthday in a cabin at a state park, fishing and cooking out. What a shame to start closing our state parks. I happened onto this article by accident while looking for things to do in Leflore County. Yes, I am local in Leflore County, but as the author of the article said when you start closing state parks people will begin going to other states. Thank you for the information Craig Hall, for telling the truth about how much will really be saved or rather lost by closing the Ruinstone.My name is Beckie Johnson and I know my family will want to visit The Ruinstone again before it closes. I will be looking to see what other parks Snodgrass will be closing.