By Violet Hassler, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Oklahoma parks only know two seasons a year: on and off. At Roman Nose State Park, employees are getting ready to switch it on at full power for the first time in months.
A newly renovated Roman Nose Lodge opened to the public in November, after being shut down during a two-year demolition and renovation project.
But the damage of an inland tropical storm in 2007 left its mark on the lodge, as the heavily damaged south wing was not replaced.
The original lodge structure, built in the 1950s, was renovated with an emphasis on modern architecture showcasing the park area’s past and reason for existence today.
“It’s a rebirth of the facility for us, I think, and it’s a chance for us to highlight some of the history of the park,” park manager Travis Lindley said in November as the lodge was preparing to re-open.
As one enters the lobby — almost cave-like before the renovation — light pours in through ceiling-to-floor windows open to the south, where the hillside also has been restructured, showing little evidence the wing once stood there.
Throughout the lodge, photos of the park’s American Indian past and its signature springs draw the eye, tempting one to wander the lodge to view them all.
Renovation at Roman Nose has had its critics, though, as many in the nearby town of Watonga were “disheartened” by the decision not to rebuild the lodge at its pre-storm capacity, Hardy Watkins, then-executive director of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, said in November.
One worry voiced by Watonga’s mayor is Roman Nose no longer can book the larger conferences that once drew people to the area.
Park officials acknowledge that concern but hope to make up for it with a larger number of people coming to the park throughout the year because of the renovations.
So far, the strategy seems to be paying off, said Keli Clark, marketing coordinator for Oklahoma state parks with Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
“Actually the numbers are up at Roman Nose,” she said. “They’re holding their own. Word is getting out. People are excited about the park.”
That excitement ratchets up a notch this week, as the off-season officially gives way to the busiest months for state parks.
“The season usually begins with spring break,” Clark said. “That’s when people start coming into parks.”
Roman Nose has been cycled into the state park’s marketing campaign, she said.
“We try to let people know Roman Nose is out there,” she said.
Someone in Enid asked about the park when she was in the city for a speaking engagement recently, she said, and she encouraged them to come “see the difference.”
While the lodge is a draw after two years of renovations, the park has been operating the same as always.
An 18-hole, canyon-style golf course offers a unique experience, Clark said, and the two lakes at the park offer abundant fishing opportunities.
A fishing derby last weekend drew 200 participants and others to watch the event.
Horseback riding, swimming, a general store, lake activities, miniature golf and teepee rentals are available during the summer, and the natural springs and terrain are available year-round to hikers and bikers and those just wanting to enjoy the surroundings or get-away.
The park also boasts numerous camping stations and a group camp is available for larger gatherings or family reunions.
Roman Nose is an hour southwest of Enid, just off Oklahoma 8, north of Watonga.
Go to http://www.stateparks.com/roman_nose.html or call (580) 623-4215 for park information.