Mayor Jean Ann Wright approached the County Commissioners at the Monday morning meeting about the City of Stilwell taking over maintenance of Adair Park and making improvements there.
Mike Wininger was the first to say he wasn’t in favor of giving up control of the park.
“It’s run down and there are no funds to take care of it. What has the city done to help with it?” Winninger asked.
He noted the county has kept the roads up and paid bills.
“The city has mowed and we send our crews to pick up trash. We have done in-kind work,” Wright said.
The city does have resources right now, she added.
“I can make no decision on my own, but I would recommend it to the City Council. I’ve had complaints about the park since before I was mayor, and it’s the most common complaint I hear now, asking why our park is so run down,” said Wright.
The goal would be to make it more family friendly, she said.
“We’d make the bathrooms usable again, stock the pond with fish, and make it a place people can enjoy camping again. We’d like to have music out there; we haven’t done that in a long time,” said Wright.
When people ask for a referral on places to camp, the mayor hasn’t felt it was feasible to refer them to Adair Park.
The city works with Watts and Westville on projects, she added.
“We’re about more than Stilwell; we’re about what’s good for the county as well,” she said.
The mayor said that when she grew up, it was a great place to go with family.
“Now the sign on the highway has a board over state, there are weeds in the butterfly garden, and we need it to be a good, functioning park again,” Wright said.
The city owns the land; it was deeded in 1966 by the Smay family.
“Where was the city 10 years ago when the state let it go? I don’t know what would have happened if the county hadn’t stepped up in 2011, or we wouldn’t have a park,” said Liz Brown.
She noted when the city was in danger of losing the park, she met with the governor.
“I recommend a joint agreement between the county and city,” Brown said.
The park is important to the county, she added.
“It is near and dear to my heart,” said Brown.
Commissioner Larry Wood was in favor of the city taking over the park and leading the way with improvements.
“We haven’t done a lot with it. We don’t have the manpower to mow and take care of it,” said Wood.
Wininger said the city has Carson Park and now Fletcher Park, so it doesn’t need another park.
Carson Park is primarily a sports venue, though.
“I would never not recognize your hard work," Wright said to Liz Brown, "or to your hard work," she told the county commissioners. "But the community would like to see the park improved so it can be used. I suggest the city take back the management of the park and whip it back into shape, replace the gazebo, clean up the flower gardens and put fish in the pond."
Another issue was if Gordon Chronister, who turned in his resignation to take care of the park, was willing to stay on if someone took care of the mowing.
“It’s just too much for a guy who works full time. There’s no sense in me trying to stay out there. There’s a lot of trash, but not people tearing things up like at the other parks,” Chronister said.
There have been times he was up at 2 a.m. mowing, because there wasn’t enough time to do everything and work full time.
He also addressed a crack in the dam at the pond.
“When Mary was still here, we tried to fix the crack; it allows the pond to fluctuate. We talked to Kansas City Southern and they said shut up or we’ll knock down the dam and there will be no pond,” Chronister said.
In the end, it was agreed a committee would be formed, job descriptions written, and Chronister will stay for 60 days until the county and city determine the best way to proceed.
Along with the regular business, Mike Dunagan, assistant district attorney, said a lawsuit regarding property first purchased in 1959 by Mr. Unger, and for which the county had maintained the road, was in a situation for which he recommended filing for damages. Mrs. LaRose, Unger’s daughter, filed a quiet title to keep the county off of the land.
“District Judge Alford did not make a decision in November 2020, when the case came to him in Muskogee. He quieted the title in their name with no damages,” said Dunagan.
If needed as a public road, the county can appeal, he said, but did not recommend an appeal. He said the decision would, no doubt, be found for the property owners, not the county.
“The road needs to stay open. It connects two county roads like it has since wagon days. It has a mail route and bus route. We’re the ones who fixed it when it washed out. Now we’re not allowed on it,” said County Commissioner Sam Chandler.
The led a motion to file an appeal, which was approved.