National Park Service and Chickasaw Nation Collaborate on Construction of Pedestrian Bridge Connecting Two Major Tourism Destinations
The National Park Service (NPS) and the Chickasaw Nation continued their century-long partnership with the announcement in February 2015 of a collaborative project that builds a 195-foot pedestrian bridge within the Chickasaw National Recreation Area (CNRA), connecting two flagship destinations in south-central Oklahoma.
The bridge will link the CNRA with the Chickasaw Cultural Center – an internationally-known tourism destination – near Sulphur, Oklahoma. Currently, access to and from the CNRA and the cultural center is only available via vehicle. The pedestrian bridge will enable visitors on foot and bicycle to cross Rock Creek between the two destinations.
The partnership of NPS and the Chickasaw Nation dates back to 1906 when settlement threatened the area. The two groups joined forces to preserve the land in the region. This project is no different. The bridge is designed to exist in harmony with the natural environment and will encourage visitors to experience the beauty of the area while providing safe and convenient access to each destination.
Within a mile radius of entering the CNRA from the new pedestrian bridge, there are five key park attractions easily accessible to visitors, they are: Rock Creek Campground, Veterans Lake, Bromide Hill, Bison Pasture and numerous walking, hiking and biking trails.
Entering the Chickasaw Cultural Center grounds from the bridge will place visitors at the Welcome Pavilion allowing guests to gather information and directions on the facility. A walking path extends from the Welcome Pavilion through the Spiral Gardens encouraging guests to continue along the botanical path or venture toward the Traditional Chickasaw Village.
“Two organizations, the National Park Service and the Chickasaw Nation, coming together to build a new pedestrian bridge furthers tourism opportunities in Murray County,” said Paige Williams, director of corporate development and tourism for the Chickasaw Nation. “Enhancing visitors’ experiences in the area and providing easier access between the two tourism destinations will enable guests to have a more immersive experience, as they can fully embrace the peace and beauty of the area just as Chickasaw ancestors found in the late 1800s as they arrived in this region. We’re looking forward to the opening and new experiences for our guests visiting the area.”
Williams said a bike rental program will be added to the Chickasaw Cultural Center when the bridge is completed. This bike rental location will complement the existing bike rental location at the Chickasaw Visitor Center near the park’s entrance.
“Adding a bike rental program to the cultural center will let visitors rent bikes, ride them across the bridge and return on the opposite side, or ride back across the bridge,” said Williams. “Additional bike rental programs in the area allows us to expand the visitor’s experience.”
The Chickasaw Visitor Center also provides visitors the chance to collect information, access maps for the area and talk with NPS park rangers about the geography of the area and best areas to explore.
In addition to the new pedestrian bridge and bike rental program, three new trails will be constructed to create a continuous trail network within the CNRA. These trails can be used for walking, hiking and biking. Parking improvements will be made to account for the increase in visitors who prefer to park-and-walk the entire area.
For more information on the pedestrian bridge, bike rental programs and the new trails, visit Chickasaw Country at www.chickasawcountry.com.