AFTON - The City of Afton hasn't yet opened its business park, but one tenant has already committed to building there.

Craig General Hospital plans to open a satellite health care facility in the 49-acre park next year.

“We're still in the planning stages, but the facility will probably have a clinic, with a full-time nurse practitioner and visiting doctors, said Joe Gunn, Craig General's chief executive officer.

The hospital has acquired an option on 15 acres in the park. The planned 4,000-square-foot satellite facility in Afton is part of a strategic plan adopted by Craig General approximately two years ago. Since adopting the plan, the hospital has opened satellite facilities in Langley and Ketchum. Construction of a 12,000-square-foot Craig General satellite on Delaware County's Monkey Island is expected to begin next month

The announcement of Craig General's plan came Wednesday at Afton City Hall just after a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the business park. The park will be named Littlefield Business Park to honor former state senator Rick Littlefield, a longtime resident of rural Afton.

“It's nothing new to rural Oklahoma, or to rural communities everywhere, but its been sad to see Afton lose business, Littlefield said. “I remember the days when Afton had a thriving lumber yard and Farmers' State Bank and a lot of businesses, but the town has been declining in population and declining economically. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a revitalization of the town.

The business park property was purchased with grant funding and cost $91,000. It is expected to contain both business and light industry.

The park is located about two miles east of Afton's downtown business district and sits on Oklahoma Highway 69. It has potential for rail access on its north boundary where a Burlington Northern Santa Fe line runs along the property. A gas line and a city water line run to the site. The city is exploring grant funding to supply the site with a connection to its wastewater treatment facility.

Road building in the park will be performed by Ottawa County crews and financed through the city's use tax funds. The city receives about $2,000 a month in use tax collections, according to Mayor Billy Mack Harrison.

Use tax is generated when city residents purchase items in another governmental jurisdiction.

“Afton is a good community, it's quiet and has a good school system. We're close to (Grand Lake of the Cherokees) so we have a lot of recreational opportunities, Harrison said. “We've got wireless Internet and we're going to have (digital subscriber line) access through AT&T soon. What we've been lacking is solid police protection and handy access to a medical facility.

The town has recently stepped up police protection by entering into a contract with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement services. Next year, city residents will be able to visit a physician and obtain other medical services at Craig General's medical facility.

“The City of Afton is getting close to having all the things people are looking for when they are looking for a place to live, Harrison said. “We still need businesses and jobs, but a lot of people are getting tired of the big city hassles and maybe some of them will want to come live and even work in Afton.