By Markie Martin
Gov. Mary Fallin and other Oklahoma state legislators met at Lake Murray State Park Monday afternoon. They were there to break ground on a new multi-million dollar project that's been in the works for several years--a brand new lake lodge.
Gov. Fallin said: "We're going to have 32 new rooms and a new lodge, and then we're going to refurbish the old lodge itself. We're really excited about how this is going to enhance southern Oklahoma and bring it lots of new tourists and tourism dollars to this part of the state."
Speaking of dollars, legislators say funding for the $15 million project will be sourced from the state park trust fund--meaning no new debt and no need to reach into taxpayers pockets.
State Sen. Frank Simpson says the park upgrades are overdue--a hit that the southern Oklahoma economy has felt in recent years. "As the lodge aged and became less appealing, we did see a decline in our registration and attendance at the lodge," he said. "And that was reflected in lost revenue."
Director of Oklahoma State Parks Kris Marek says she is proud to see the project coming to fruition.
"It's really the start of an era of rehabbing some of our facilities that need love," said Marek.
What new additions is the state going to implement to ensure it gets that lost revenue back? Aside from a brand new lodge complete with lakefront rooms and easy water access, visitors can look forward to a new restaurant and banquet hall.
"We think it'll drive even more people to this area," said Gov. Fallin. "It's a beautiful area of the state of Oklahoma."
Lake Murray currently brings in about $3.5 million and about 1.5 million guests per year. It is Oklahoma's only state park that is fully owned by the taxpayers. The project is expected to be completed by fall of 2016.