A purchase of 77 acres will give Grove's state park a fresh look in the future.
The purchase, announced on Monday, Jan. 28, will unite Honey Creek State Park with the adjoining Albro Estate on Honey Creek Road.
The purchase will give the park - part of the Grand Lake State Park group - additional shoreline and space for multiple uses.
Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell said he is excited for the land purchase.
The newly appointed Oklahoma Secretary for Tourism and Branding views it as the beginning of a new emphasis joining tourism and economic development within the state.
"I firmly believe tourism is the front door to economic development," Pinnell said. "We have great state parks. We need to do a better job promoting tourism around the state.
"Gov. [Kevin] Stitt and I are committing to make this state better, and lead the way for economic development."
While the exact usage of the land will come as state officials take part in development meetings, Pinnell said he hopes the additional space will allow park officials to capitalize on growing edges within the tourism industry.
"RV sales are at an all time high in this country," Pinnell said. "We have to take advantage of the RV culture in this country."
Pinnell, who owns a property on Grand Lake in the Disney area, said he is excited to see new growth in the region.
"Grand Lake is already a tourist gem in the state," Pinnell said. "We are doubling down on that, going all in in the Grand Lake area and in Grove, to make sure it is a tourism destination point.
"This [purchase] demonstrates that."
Pinnell said tourism is more than just visitors. He believes improvements to the state park system will help the adjoining communities, such as Grove, with quality of life growth.
He said quality of life is an important factor, because it helps local officials recruit and retain jobs within the community.
"This is something I'm passionate about," Pinnell said. "Parks and museums are important for any thriving community.
"I think this state park will be one of the better ones in the state when it is finally built out, which all points the [improved] quality of life."
For Dick Dutton, executive director at Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, the purchase gives Oklahomans, and visitors alike a chance for new opportunities to explore the outdoors.
Dutton said the Albro property has numerous pluses, including water front property as well as land for development.
"OTRD sees lots of opportunities for this land, RV sites have been mentioned, walking trails, possibly cabins and/or yurts and if one wants to dream big, maybe some type of lodge/multi-room facility," Dutton said. "We will be working on a master development plan to provide direction on what may be developed."
Dutton said it has not been determined if the land will be feasible for a public swim beach.
"The shore line is pretty steep and there will need to be a determination of accessibility for all visitors," Dutton said. "The master development plan should provide guidance in this area."
Dutton said both he and members of the state's tourism industry are excited about Pinnell and Stitt's emphasis on developing both the state's tourism industry and the state park system so both are rated within the top 10.
"The excitement and pride that is shown by both of them in what the state of Oklahoma has to offer a visitor to the state and reminding all of us, just how great of a state that Oklahoma is," Dutton said. "On the functional side, one always would like to have additional resources to market the many experiences which a visitor would have if they come to Oklahoma and continue the program and facility enhancement in the State Parks around Grand Lake and across the state.
"This increased visitation will add to the tourism industry’s recent record breaking economic impact and tax revenue collections for the state."
Years in the making
This is not the first time state officials have worked to purchase the Albro estate for expansion purposes. Dutton said as late as 2015, officials attempted to close the deal, but were unable to make it work.
The latest effort began in October. State officials officials closed on the land, at an approximate $11,000 per acre, on Friday, Jan. 25. An additional piece of the property, consisting of approximately 11 acres, was purchased by a private investor.
Oklahoma Tourism Commissioner Chuck Perry helped facilitate the sale, saying he's been working to get this piece of property into the right hands for the past decade. Jim Talbot with the Dodd Company served as the realtor for the project.
"I worked on this as a commissioner, not as a realtor," Perry said. "I received no compensation in any shape or form. That's not what it was about.
"This is an investment in the community I love down to my very core. Think of the prosperity it will bring to the Grand Lake and Grove communities. We have this nice, bright little jewel sitting on the biggest jewel which is Grand Lake."
Like Dutton, he is excited to work with Stitt and Pinnell as a new direction is set for the state's tourism and recreation board.
The improvements, Perry said, will not only include acquisition of land, but capital improvements for existing parks. Budget cuts in state allocations in the last few years have limited improvements to maintenance projects.
"There's a new excitement now that there's a new sheriff, so to speak, in town," Perry said. "Tourism is the third largest economic driver in the state."
Senator Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) believes the new land will be an asset to the city, as well as the lake community.
"It is a splendid location with numerous opportunities for development," Shaw said. "[It] definitely should increase the flow of tourists visiting our community."
Rep. Josh West (R-Grove) agreed.
"I am so pleased to see the Oklahoma State Park system invest in this beautiful park," West said. "I look forward to seeing what the future brings to the Honey Creek Area and all of the Grand Lake region.
"Grand Lake is such a great destination for out-of-state travelers. An expansion to the park will [also] provide wonderful new opportunities for Oklahoma families and for visitors."
About Grand Lake State Park
Honey Creek State Park is just one of seven state parks within the Grand Lake State Park region. It currently stretches across 38 acres along the shore of Grand Lake on the Honey Creek branch of the lake.
It has more than 40 RV sites and 100 tent campsites. It is a popular spot for boating and fishing, and includes a public boat ramp and fishing dock.
Other parks within the Grand Lake area include Twin Bridges State Park, Bernice State Park and Nature Center, Disney/Little Blue State Park, Cherokee State Park (which includes Grand Cherokee Golf Course below Pensacola Dam on the Langley said of the lake and a lakeside park above Pensacola Dam in Disney), and well as the Spavinaw Area on Spavinaw Lake and the Snowdale Area on the shores of Lake Hudson.