Controlled burns at Lake of the Arbuckles

By: Alex Belser Email
By: Alex Belser Email

SULPHUR, OK - Spring break vacationers visiting one popular outdoors spot may encounter some smoky air this weekend.

The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is doing a new round of burning around Lake of the Arbuckles which may produce some smoke in the area, depending on the wind conditions.

"We've seen a lot of trees down and areas burned," said Paul Westbrook, who is visiting the area from Fort Worth.

The park started the project last year with stimulus money and their target is a tree called the eastern red cedar.

"We've been cutting them, leaving them to dry, and the final step is coming in with prescribed burning to burn them," park superintendent Bruce Noble said. "It's native to Oklahoma, however it is invasive so it takes over a lot of land, it sucks up a lot of water, it crowds out other types of vegetation, and it gets in the way of wildlife migration."

Over 30 National Park Service employees from this park and others in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas will be in town to help in a new round of burning cedars starting on Thursday, Noble said.

The goal is to return to "prairie conditions" when settlers cut down some large trees for wood, and to burn off dry, dead vegetation and help create a buffer in order to prevent wildfires.

As she trains for the Arbuckles to Ardmore half marathon, Janice Kiser said she has noticed a change. Last year, areas near Veterans Lake were full of trees, and now they are clear.

"It looks good with the landscape all cleared off though, so you can actually see the hills," parkgoer Clarence Weldon said.

The trees waiting to be burned are scattered around about half of the park. The project will wrap up sometime in April.

For updated information on the burns, the National Park Service asks that you call (580) 622-7220 or visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/chic.


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