Superintendent's Blog Archive

Superintendent Bruce Noble has written many articles addressing various aspects of park operations and ongoing events. Click on the links below for the archive of his previous blogs from 2007.
 
 
30 November 2007
Perhaps the most visible construction project in Murray County in 2007 involved last summer’s work on the Flower Park trail system in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Nearly everyone in the county has occasion to pass through the 4-way stop in Sulphur at the junction of highways 177 and 7 and the work was clearly visible from that point. Everybody has heard the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and such was the case with these park trails. I would like to use this article as an opportunity to discuss the good work accomplished by the National Park Service in Flower Park.

Building a trail seems like it only involves clearing a path, laying down some gravel, and calling it good. Outstanding trail work takes much more than that, as the work in Flower Park illustrates. The Flower Park trail system was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In the years since then, much of the work on those trails consisted of repeated applications of gravel and silt. The net result was that up to a foot of fill material had been placed on top of the original trail. Most of the stones that originally marked the edge of these trails had long since been buried.

The challenge placed on the shoulders of the park maintenance division was to restore the Flower Park trail system to the original appearance created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This process was not fast or easy. Crews had to carefully grade down to remove silt, clay, and gravel layers that covered the original trail edged in stone. To improve accessibility for the disabled, the lower trails were widened by 18 inches by moving the buried stone edging. The grades were slightly modified to improve drainage. Also, a 4-inch thick granite aggregate surface was installed between the stone edging to provide a firm and stable walking surface.

Another part of this project involved removing the small concrete and stone pedestrian bridge and replacing it with a reinforced concrete bridge covered by trail gravel and edged with 14 foot long logs. Additional flanking stones were added to blend this structure with the landscape. The replacement bridge not only improves accessibility, but also better reflects the rustic character of the original bridge constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Hopefully I have managed to communicate the complexity of this trail restoration project. Much more than just slapping down a new trail, this project has in a sense transformed Flower Park and returned its original rustic character to the historic landscape. Today we can once again enjoy one mile of meandering trails with stone edging, and firm, stable, and gently sloping aggregate surfaces. The restored trails will better accommodate wheel chairs, child strollers, and other people who want to exercise, stroll, or picnic in this scenic area.

I might add that we expect to undertake more projects designed to restore the historic character of the Platt District. Many of those projects originated as recommendations included in the Cultural Landscape Report completed by the park in 2003. The park continues to rely on this planning document to help us secure special funding needed to conduct about 100 treatment projects proposed for the Platt District. Other projects being planned for Flower Park include the re-establishment of the original wading pools, repair of the 10 falls in the creek, and realignment of the creek bank stones.

Another aspect of this story is the growing recognition of the historical significance of the Platt District. The Civilian Conservation Corps did some truly unique work in designing the trails, roads, and pavilions that collectively make up the landscape included in the Platt District. In order to recognize the historical importance of this work, a National Historic Landmark nomination is being prepared to officially acknowledge the historical value of the original park area encompassed within Platt. We eagerly await this designation given that National Historical Landmarks are the highest form of recognition given to historical properties by the Secretary of the Interior. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the historical significance of Platt has a great deal to do with the great effort that park employees make to take care of this special area.

The recently completed trail work in Flower Park would not have been possible without the support of the Dolese Brothers Company, Joe Wells, and the Overland Corporation. They generously agreed to donate stone that matched the original stone used by the Civilian Conservation Corps in Flower Park. Last but not least, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to the following National Park Service employees who assisted with this project: Rick Thompson, Steve McConaty, Don Gwaltney, Richard Gates, Gary Wagner, Dave Lance, Ryan Aders, David Wilson, Brace Murphy, CT Hill, Pete Graves, Mike Griffis, Bud Wilson, Tim Jarrell, Art Boss, and Ken Ruhnke. Without their diligent work, this successful trail project would not have been possible.

In closing, let me mention that the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps will be celebrated in 2008. The park is tentatively planning an event in late March to mark this important anniversary. In the meantime, have a very happy holiday season and I hope to see many of you out enjoying the park on the nice days that I am sure we will have during the winter months.


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23 October 2007
The leaves are starting to turn, the nights are cooler, and football games dominate the weekends. All of these things offer sure signs that autumn has arrived. I welcome the change of seasons because fall is always my favorite time of year.

Another sign of fall, I’m sorry to say, is litter in the woods! During a recent hike around the buffalo pasture in the Platt District of the park, my wife and I quickly accumulated a healthy collection of trash. At the end of our hike, some of the following items filled our litter bags: beef jerky package, Doritos bag, Oreos package, cigarette package, many Styrofoam cups, plastic spoons, a cigar, straws, beer bottles and cans, water bottles, soft drink cans, Gatorade bottles, and a broken whiskey bottle. This was a pretty good haul for a two or three mile hike!

Why should litter become more obvious during the fall season? There are two reasons that come to mind. One, everything in the woods becomes more visible as the weeds and undergrowth begin to die. Second, lack of funding has caused the park to lay off our seasonal maintenance workers so we have fewer people available to collect the trash. As a result, autumn becomes litter season at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

You may ask if there is anything that can be done about this. I hope the answer is yes, but the park will need help. The litter issue is bigger than we can handle on our own.

Let me try to explain. In a nutshell, the mission of the National Park Service is to protect natural and historic resources, and to attract visitors. While we hope to educate visitors about the park and to provide them with quality recreational experiences, we also know that park visitors help to generate tourism revenue for the local economy. But visitors primarily come to parks because of the attraction of pristine resources. If the woods are full of litter, we run the risk that fewer folks will want to visit. A decline in the number of visitors can actually have negative consequences for the local economy.

I’m trying to suggest that we’re all in this together. What helps the park helps the community and what hurts the park hurts the community. Please help us by using the trash cans in the park and by encouraging your family and friends to do the same. Believe it or not, less litter in the park may even help to stimulate the local economy.

Talk of economic incentives leads me to the subject of recycling. Last week, I met with Fenton Rood, state recycling coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Rood spoke of the lively market for recycled materials these days. He pointed out that 19 manufacturers in Oklahoma run their plants on recycled materials. The market for office paper, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, newspaper, and cardboard is high. Right here in Sulphur, one pound of used aluminum cans will fetch you 50 cents from a local vendor.

A few days ago, I picked up a copy of the New York Times and read about a unique recycling problem. The city of New York has curbside recycling. Because the value of recycled materials is so high, the city finds that recycled materials placed on the curb by home owners actually get stolen before city workers can collect them. The city counts on the value of there recycled materials to help pay for their overall recycling program. To combat this unusual form of theft, the city has begun to issue tickets and fines to those who steal recycling. This is just another example proving that there is money in recycling.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area is not New York City, but the park does have 1.4 million visitors per year who generate a good deal of trash.At present, the park has no recycling program and all that trash simply ends up in a land fill. We have big plans to change that situation. This summer, we were able to acquire a large recycling container to use in transporting materials from the park to a recycling center. By the summer of 2008, we hope to be in full swing with a park recycling program. This will require the assistance of the park staff, our campground hosts, and our visitors. I’m certain that they all are more than up to the task. I also hope that the cities of Sulphur and Davis might be able to partner with the park so that we can achieve some economies of scale in our handling of recycled materials.

Why would we bother with recycling at Chickasaw National Recreation Area? The National Park Service has an environmental mission in connection with our interest in protecting park resources. We try hard to take good care of the land and hope to set an example that others are motivated to follow. I hope that the park’s interest in recycling will encourage others to do the same.

In the end, attacking our litter problem and engaging in recycling are simply the right things to do. If this is not motivation enough, remember that a landscape free of litter helps us to attract tourist dollars and there definitely a market for recycled materials today. When we have an actual financial incentive to do the right thing, that’s the best of all possible outcomes. As always, I appreciate your help and support and look forward to seeing you in the park soon.
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14 September 2007
The kids are back in school, football season has started, and the weather has begun to cool down. That means that things are starting to slow down just a bit at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Although the rainy weather hampered park visitation in June & July, a busy Labor Day weekend helped us to gain some ground late in the summer. Our current figures show the park’s recreational visitation up by 3.8% at this point in the year.

With autumn on the way, a priority for the park staff will be the completion of our final General Management Plan. This is a very important document that will guide the management direction of the park for the next 15 to 20 years. No dramatic changes of direction are in store for Chickasaw National Recreation Area, but the plan provides us with numerous project recommendations that will keep us busy for years to come.

One of the major initiatives of the plan involves relocating the park’s maintenance area. The new location for the maintenance area has not been chosen, but it will be either outside the historic Platt District of the park or perhaps outside the park altogether. The reason for this move may not be immediately obvious because the current maintenance area is hidden from public view behind the Leeper House. However, anyone visiting the maintenance area will quickly recognize the need for change. The current maintenance operations are based in a dilapidated grouping of buildings where there is a terrible lack of storage for the vehicles and machinery that the staff uses everyday. It is an eyesore and does not provide the proper operating environment for the staff and the equipment they use. Although the park lacks the funding to accomplish this move in the near future, an improvement to this situation is long over due.

Let me address a few other questions that have been raised in public comments on the General Management Plan:

1.The future of the Travertine Nature Center: There seems to be some concern about future plans for the Nature Center. I’ve even heard about rumors circulating that the park plans to close the Nature Center. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Nature Center will continue to play a vital role in the park’s educational programs for years into the future.

Built in 1969, the Nature Center was designed by the Houston architectural firm of MacKie & Kamrath. These architects worked in the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright and those influences can be observed in the way that the Nature Center is built to harmonize with its natural surroundings. In fact, the building is so unique that I would like to see it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We will seek an opportunity to nominate the building to the National Register, even though that honor is ordinarily reserved for buildings that are at least fifty years old. This interest in seeing the building listed on the National Register is an indication of the high regard that the park staff has for the Nature Center.

2. The future of the bison herd: The size of the bison herd grew to seven this past spring when a new calf was born. The bison pasture at Chickasaw National Recreation Area is a rather small area in which to maintain a herd. One person who commented on the General Management Plan suggested that raising bison might best be left to ranchers or places like Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge or Yellowstone National Park. While I respect those comments, park management has no intention of eliminating the bison herd. The bison have become a symbol of the park and have been enjoyed by several generations of visitors. The General Management Plan does raise the possibility of moving the bison to the Upper Guy Sandy portion of the park. While that idea will be considered, the bison will remain a fixture in the park for years to come.

3. The removal of Eastern Red Cedar: There is strong support in the community for the reduction in the number of red cedars in the park. This invasive species sucks up a huge amount of water, produces large amounts of pollen that contribute to local allergy problems, and also creates a thick canopy that crowds out native trees and plants. The park has a serious commitment to red cedar reduction through a combination of cutting and grinding them for mulch and by burning them during prescribed fires. Our ongoing efforts to eradicate red cedar are an important aspect of efforts to selectively restore the natural prairie landscape in the park. We are currently excited about the possibility that the park may receive significant new funding in 2009 to assist with red cedar removal.

On a different note the National Park Service is already actively planning for the agency’s 100th anniversary in 2016. According to National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, “The centennial challenge is a critical element in the National Park Centennial Initiative put forward by President Bush and unveiled by Secretary Kempthorne one year ago. The full centennial initiative is a potential $3 billion investment in our national parks, two thirds of it a public-private partnership of matching money.” The President’s fiscal year 2008 budget called for an additional $100 million a year for 10 years to be dedicated to bolster basic park operations. Congress has included the first $100 million for operations in the fiscal year 2008 budget that awaits final passage.

“The second part of the initiative is the centennial challenge – a funding mechanism to match up to $100 million a year over 10 years of public money with $100 million a year for 10 years in private donations,” Bomar said. “Congress has yet to finish legislation necessary to create the public-private centennial challenge.” If enacted, Chickasaw National Recreation Area will have a great opportunity to reach toward these matching funds in 2009.

In the meantime, this park has developed a Centennial vision and a strategy to implement that vision. For a sneak preview of the Centennial vision for Chickasaw National Recreation Area, please visit the following internet address: www.nps.gov/chic/parkmgmt/centennial-vision.htm. We are hopeful that the National Park Service centennial will offer great things for the park and for Murray County.

With the pleasant fall weather having arrived, please take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the park. I hope to see you soon on a trail or out on the water!
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3 August 2007
Greetings! For those of you I have not met before, it is my privilege to be the new superintendent here at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Let me begin by saying what a pleasure it is to be here in Sulphur. It is a beautiful area and my wife and I appreciate how friendly and welcoming everyone has been. During the course of my National Park Service career, I have had the opportunity to live in a variety of very fine locations including Washington, DC; Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Skagway, Alaska; and Grand Junction, Colorado. I am pleased to now be able to add Sulphur to that list of excellent places where it has been my good fortune to reside.

Last Tuesday afternoon, July 31, I was officially “installed” as park superintendent during an open house held in the Chamber of Commerce building. Bob Moon, Associate Regional Director for Resource Management from the National Park Service regional office in Denver, presided over the ceremony. A large number of people from the community attended that event and I want to thank those of who were able to be there. I would like to use this article as an opportunity to summarize the remarks I made during that event.

My remarks last Tuesday revolved around three points I would like to emphasize in my management of Chickasaw National Recreation Area:

  1. Communications: The National Park Service works really hard to make the right decision on a whole variety of issues. We do our best to make sure that those decisions are in the best interest not only of the park, but also of the people and communities affected by those decisions. However, we need to do a better job of letting the public know the reasoning behind those decisions. Often times, we make decisions on complicated matters and we can not always assume that our reasoning is obvious to everyone. I pledge to work hard to communicate the basis of the decisions we make here in the park and I certainly intend to announce any important decision before we implement it. In fact, my interest in writing a monthly article for the newspaper is very much related to my interest in opening up the lines of communication.

At the same time, communication is always a two-way street. I am very open to hearing from anyone in the community who has an idea, a thought, or a concern about the park that they would like to share with me. Please feel free to call or stop by my office on W. 2nd Street anytime. Or stop me on the street if you see me out and about somewhere. I would love to hear compliments about the park, but would also welcome hearing concerns that I can help to resolve. I really want to hear from you!

  1. I don’t believe “no” should always be the first answer: any level of government generally comes with rules attached. I would not want to apologize for having rules in government. Rules help to provide for the civilized society in which we are fortunate to live. The rule of law is the basis for our legal system which helps to distinguish this great country from other nations around the world where chaos and disorder often prevail.

However, rules can also serve as an excuse to say no to everything. At Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I plan to keep an open mind about activities or events that might be conducted in the park. If you have an idea about something you would like to see take place in the park, please let me know. On some occasions, I may ultimately have to say no. I take seriously the responsibility that all National Park Service employees have to protect the parks. At the same time, I want to be clear that I don’t always believe no is the right answer and I will work hard to find a way to say yes to ideas that are proposed to me.

  1. I am great believer in getting out in the parks where I work: Most every weekend, you will find my wife and me out on one of the trails in the park. We have not gotten out on the lake much so far, but I hope to change that in the near future. I also want to make it a point to be visible in the park during my work days. It just seems to me that it’s impossible to effectively manage a park by sitting in an office all day! It is extremely important to get out and experience the park just as a visitor would do. Seeing the park through the eyes of a visitor is the best way to notice the types of improvements that visitors would like to see. I want to make a special effort to manage the park in the way that a reasonable visitor would like to see it managed.

Some people have observed that “national parks are one of America’s best ideas”. National Parks were invented in the United States with the creation of Yellowstone in 1872. The national park concept has been adopted and imitated by other countries around the world. Yet, no park is an island that can exist entirely on its own. To be successful, a national park has to be able to call on the support of a variety of partners including local communities, special interest groups, businesses, philanthropic organizations, tourism organizations—the list goes on and on! I can already tell that the foundation for this kind of support exists here in Sulphur and I look forward to the opportunity to further develop that support network in the years to come.

Once again, it is a pleasure to be a part of your community and I look forward to getting to know many of you better in the future. Please get out and experience the beauties of the park during the remainder of the summer and have a safe and enjoyable time in the process!
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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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