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On Wednesday, March 30, 2011 the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation spent the day cleaning up and repairing the Kiamichi Bridge Park on HWY. 271 just outside of Antlers.
The ODWC owns approximately three acres of land at this location and it is open to the public as a park, complete with a swinging bridge, picnic tables, restrooms and a boat ramp leading into the Kiamichi River.
During their day long outage to cleanup the park, workers replace boards on the bridge and tighten sagging support lines, cleaned up the boat ramp, replace and repair posts and safety cables, brush hogged and picked up trash.
The ODWC comes in and cleans up the park once every other year and in the past the County Commissioners have agreed to help out in-between their visits, but due to busy schedules and tight budgets no one group can supply the time needed to keep the park clean without the help of the individuals who use the park.
Joe Hemphill, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Regional Supervisor for the Southeast Area, said that in the process of the cleanup their crew picked up approximately 22 bags of trash consisting of common litter, beer cans, broken beer bottles, and used syringes. They also pulled two refrigerators out of the river that had been dumped off the boat ramp.
Another issue that Hemphill and his crew noticed was that four-wheel drive vehicles had been driving through the grounds and tearing up the land. To combat this issue the Department plans to put up more posts and safety cables to eliminate access to the land.
Shinning a bright light of hope on the park is the Little Dixie Community Action Agency who have came up with funds to help maintain the park during the summer. However, the ODWC still asks all visitors to pick up after themselves when they leave the park.
Pushmataha County residents and out of town guests all need to practice the â€śIf you brought it, take it with youâ€ť policy. If this problem isnâ€™t solved (the trash and turning the boat ramp into a dumping ground) the ODWC will be forced to gate up the park and make it closed to the public.
â€śWe are giving this park one more go as we fix it and clean it back up,â€ť said Hemphill. â€śThe bridge is going to be as safe as it can be, the grounds are going to be clean and the ramp is going to be fixed up. But if people continue to ransack and ruin the park we will be forced to close it and let it grow up.â€ť
County Commissioner Brittingham, the Sheriffâ€™s Department, Antlers Police Department, Little Dixie CAA and Southeast Disposal have all agreed to help keep the park at itsâ€™ best but that isnâ€™t going to be enough! It is up to you to help keep this park operational for all who enjoy using it. The public is going to have to take responsibility for themselves and their trash and help keep the park clean and safe for everyone otherwise, we are going to loose yet another place for outdoor recreation, family outings and local access to the river.
The people who have stepped up and are responsible for the cleanup of the park, and the last chance we have to keep it that way, were: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Representative R.C. Pruett, Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Pushmataha County Commissioner for District 1 Mike Brittingham and Clinton Lewis of Southeast Disposal.