Part one of a two part series looking at proposed Hunting Heritage Center and Shooting Complex at Lake Murray.
Discussions with the intent to develop a tourism attraction at Lake Murray have been ongoing since December 2014. The proposal discussed is to bring a Hunting Heritage Center and Shooting Complex to the Lake Murray State Park.
Based on a facility in South Carolina, the National Wildlife Turkey Federation would build a facility that would feature a shooting complex with hunting heritage and education center. The shooting complex discussed would have a world-class skeet, trip and sporting clay complex in addition to a pistol, rifle range and archery range and would be open to the public. In short, it would be Disneyland for the outdoors sportsman.
Bill Buckner, Secretary for the National Wildlife Turkey Federation and CEO of the Noble Foundation, said he was approached last winter by Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore).
“With all of our activities, we have always focused on how do we create business opportunities in southern Oklahoma,” Buckner said. “In December, Rep.Ownbey reached out to me. The water was down at Lake Murray and his constituents were concerned about the water level and concerned about tourism dropping off. At that time, he asked what we could do.”
Buckner had several group discussions at the Noble Foundation and settled in on conforming South Carolina project into one at Lake Murray. He contacted Ownbey, Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill), Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) along with Ardmore Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mita Bates and Brian Carter, who was with the Ardmore Development Authority at the time. He also contacted George Thornton, who serves as the President of the NWTF. When asked if he was interested, Thornton thought it was a great concept and was interested in learning more.
The timing proved to be perfect with the Lt. Governor’s Turkey Hunt taking place at that time. Buckner said the NWTF has a great relationship with Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and the state. During the hunt last spring, both Thornton and Lamb visited proposed sites at Lake Murray with positive reviews.
“Lt. Gov. Lamb was excited,” Buckner said. “He gave advice on who to speak with.”
Bates said there were three parcels which are under discussion, none of which are in the lodge area.”
Buckner said a tour was given to officials from the Department of Tourism, which included Executive Director Dick Dutton. Once again, Buckner felt optimism as he said the discussion was well received. The department came back with a book detailing criteria for the project and information. Buckner said Chesapeake had conduced both a seismic survey and archaeological survey at Lake Murray. The archaeological survey revealed some interesting sites to which Buckner felt could be developed for Native American education purposes in partnership with the Chickasaw Nation.
“Dick was real excited about that and I asked what we had to do to advance this idea,” Buckner said.
The answer was a meeting with the state archaeological and historical societies.