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December 11, 2012

City council discusses fees surrounding recreational parks

CHICKASHA — The city council discussed several outdated park regulations as well as camping, boating and hunting rules around Chickasha Lake last night during their work session at City Hall.

With the city losing $100,000 on the camping grounds around the lake, Mayor Hank Ross wants to reevaluate the current fees and somehow break even in years to come.

"We will bring this back to counsel in January," City Manager Stewart Fairburn said. "We will set the rate then."

Council member JP Epperson expressed his anticipation for the master plan, and hopes this will aid the council in determining how to break even.

As council members reminisced of how the lake used to be in the 70's and 80's, the state of the camping grounds are agreeably not up to par now.

"Right now it's a disgrace," Councilman Howard Carpenter said. "I remember camping on the West side by the bottom of the dam. It used to be the spot to be. It had great roads too."

The big difference between the money the council had in the 70's and 80's and the money available now is bonds, Ross pointed out.

"It's kind of like the water problems we have," Councilman Ryan Posey pointed out.

In the past, Posey explained, the city froze rates at incredibly low numbers and then it becomes unsustainable and that becomes a problem.

Mike Sutterfield argued maybe the city should change how the RV park by Chickasha Lake runs business. Sutterfield suggested running the grounds more like a state park and less like a "long-term landlord business."

Expansions may be seen by Chickasha residents in the future, but that is debatable among councilmembers.

"We'd like to expand the daily area camping," City Manager Stewart Fairburn said.

Epperson led the discussion among council members that even if they were to raise rental fees, there still might not be enough money for updating all around the lake.

"It's kind of like a double edged sword," Epperson said.

The council wants better profits and not to lose money, Epperson explained, but doesn't have the funds to add and maintain additional amenities that other grounds offer.

According to Wayne Burns, Parks and Recreation Director, there are currently 147 lots in use, and although there is some extra land, things are a little crowded right now.

The council also looked at chapter 15 of the city code handbook and discussed possible updates. According to Fairburn, the parks and recreation rules are a little out of date. Some parks listed are no longer owned by the city.

In the legal section of chapter 15 it states "special officers" are to enforce all the park codes.

"We don't have special officers so we can strike that," Fairburn said. "Or if we want it lets hire one."

Other terminology and topics up for discussion in chapter 15 involved the changing on hunting rules (council will vote to fully eliminate hunting at the lake), updating the trash and dumping laws, creating more specific rules about the splash park and park hours.

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