Several dignitaries and officials from Ottawa County and the state came to commemorate and celebrate the accomplishment at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

FAIRLAND – In one of the most scenic, unique areas in Ottawa County a brand new state-of-the-art building, the Twin Bridges State Park Office, is now open to showcase and serve the picturesque park’s visitors.

The newly constructed park office replaces the old office and becomes part of the recreation area established in 1954. The project was funded by monies set aside for projects through the Capital Improvement Program authorized by the Oklahoma legislature.

Several dignitaries and officials from Ottawa County and the state came to commemorate and celebrate the accomplishment at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

Oklahoma’s Executive Director of Tourism and Recreation Dick Dutton thanked Representative Ben Loring, Oklahoma State Tourism Commissioner Chuck Perry, Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend and Second Chief Norm Hildebrand, Ottawa County Commissioner Chad Masterson, Wyandotte Mayor Leon Crow and others for their support, advocacy and help with the project.

Parks Division Head Chris Merrick said, “This is very fulfilling for all of us.”

GH2 Architects Timothy Hertzog and Wendy Gray and Crossland Construction Project Manager Brandon Rowton and Superintendent Ryan Studebaker.

Oklahoma Twin Bridge’s Park staff’s District Regional Manager Greg Snider, Park Manager Sherri Burris, Ranger Zach Early, Construction maintenance Dustin Schertz and Jeremiah Robinson , secretary Annette McGuire, and SW Ok State University seasonal worker Billy Bryant, naturalist Amanda Wiley and Park Manager for the south side of Grand Lake Kevin Mallow, design team interior designer, Kalise Kriewall, and Construction Manager and Inspector Larry Williamson.

Merrick also thanked the park partners.

“I would just like to thank you all so much, we’re so excited about this and adding to it, Dutton said. “For those of you that don’t know there was work done down by the launch area where we did all the electrical poles down there and a few other things, “ Dutton said. “ In addition we’ve got work in the process over at Honey Creek where we’ll be doing some work there, a boat dock and erosion work prevention and also a comfort station is all online there. We’ll continue moving along. Thank you for the funding from the legislature to do this, I know that’s a topic these days. We hope this is one of many steps we get to improve the parks up here.”

“I want to tell you all, I love this place,” Loring said.

Loring joked that he was a little upset because back in the 80s he would bring his new Boy Scout troop to the park and camp in the exact location of the new building, which brought a laugh from those attending.

“Several of my Scout’s, including my son, their Eagle Projects were to work on things here, build some trails in this park because it’s a park we love. The park is an awesome asset for our community but it also creates jobs and revenue around the area because this is a magnet that brings people here and does great things for our community. So we appreciate everything that you’ve done for us here.”

The building, located at 14801 South Highway 137 looks at home at Twin Bridges Park with an architectural style using natural wood and stone and allows for the natural setting to be viewed through large windows incorporated in the design.

An open-ceilinged entry area complete with gift shop and fireplace invites visitors and serves park guests needs.

A west-facing outside patio is open for visitors to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Twin Bridges State Park. Twin Bridges park encompasses 63 acres of land acquired from GRDA and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of Spring River (to the east ) and the Neosho River (to the west) which flow into Grand Lake. Grand Lake O' the Cherokees encompasses 46,500 acres water.

The park is located within the Wyandotte Nation.

The park offers three campgrounds for RV or tent camping, and five primitive cabins or huts for lodging, picnic facilities, shelter houses, and playgrounds.

“Isn’t it beautiful. I’ve worked here 20 years and worked in that little office," Park Manager Sherri Burris said. “I think it’s a great thing for our whole area. It gives us a boost here in Parks because we’re on a really tight budget, and just like the teachers we buy a lot of stuff out of our pockets. I think it just gave all of us who work here a big perk, it made our jobs easier and we have a way to grow. We’re all excited.”

Best known for paddlefishing and the now traditional Christmas holiday Park of Lights, the park is well used and loved by locals as well as visitors.

“There’s so many cool memories of people who came here and memories of the Farley Farm. I loved here my whole life and this has always been called Farley Hill,” Burris said. “Everybody who has come here says, ‘ Oh my this is beautiful.”

The Heatherlys in attendance had many fond memories of Twin Bridges State Park and were all happy to see those opportunities perpetuated for future generations with the addition of the new park office.

“I spent about 23 years in this park,” Terry Heatherly of Miami said. “It’s wonderful.

Heatherly served as the Parks Manager and helped found the Park of Lights holiday tradition at Twin Bridges.

"We raised our grandkids in the house down here. Anytime you spend as much time as I have in this place, you’ve really got your heart into it and I always said I was the president and janitor,” Heatherly said with a laugh. “The employees had a good work ethic."

Rumors that Gov. Mary Fallin might be in attendance at the ribbon cutting drew a long string of educators and others to picket in support of the Oklahoma teacher walkout. Over 100 lined the roadway and Rep. Loring stopped to shake the hand of each one or give a hug before attending the event.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.