Chickasaw Nation Seeks to Manage NPS Rec Area
The Chickasaw Nation is negotiating with the National Park Service to take over management of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south central Oklahoma, according to The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City.
The area in the Arbuckle Mountains includes streams, lakes, springs and valleys and offers boating, fishing, hunting and camping opportunities.
"We are exploring the possibility of compacting to manage the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because the Chickasaw Nation has a positive historic relationship with the area,” Tom John, administrator for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Self-Governance, said in a written statement Thursday.
"Possibly is the operative word,” said Bruce Noble, recreation area superintendent. "It’s really far too early to tell what the outcome of that might be.”
Any deal would be governed by the Indian Self Determination Act, which allows tribes to work with national parks on certain programs and projects, he said.
Both park tribal officials said they are not negotiating a change in ownership.
"We are negotiating for a compact to manage the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, not for title to the property,” John said.
If an agreement to manage the area is reached, there would not be any immediate changes — such as a casino — at the recreation area, John said.
"In order to conduct gaming, title to the property must be in the name of the Chickasaw Nation, which is not a part of the compact negotiations,” he said.
"Eventually, we plan to expand on existing historic, cultural and recreational activities available to the public.”
Murray County Commissioner Billy Frank Lance said the Chickasaw Nation has a good track record in the county of about 13,000 people where the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is located. A lot of the tribe’s projects have helped the county get through the economic downturn, he said.
"They don’t do anything second class that they do,” Lance said. "I’m sure it will be something that will be welcomed by a lot of the people.”
Other projects under way
The Chickasaw Nation has several projects, such as construction in Sulphur on a nearly $22 million hotel patterned after a hotel built for the 1904 World’s Fair. The tribe also plans on opening a cultural center, Lance said.
John said plans to manage the park would fit with the Chickasaw Nation’s long-term goals for the southern Oklahoma area.
"Our long-term goals include expanding upon existing partnerships and developing a more unified approach to economic development and tourism in the region,” he said.
About the recreation area
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulphur was established in 1902 as the Sulphur Springs Reservation. The land for the park was bought from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to ensure free access to the freshwater and mineral springs located there, making it the first and only national park established at an American Indian tribe’s request. The reservation in 1906 became the nation’s seventh national park, Platt National Park. Platt National Park was combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area in 1976 to create Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
- Acres: 9,894.13
- Nonfederal acres: 4.5
- Water area: 2,409 acres
- 2009: 1,238,483 visits
- 2008: 1,230,609 visits
- 2007: 1,368,806 visits
- 2006: 1,343,793 visits
- 2005: 1,295,212 visits
Source: The National Park Service