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Okatibbee beaches, campgrounds closed as damages repaired

By Staff
FLOODED PARK Mark Dean, a park ranger at Okatibbee Lake, shows how high the water got around this pavilion at Collinsville Park during last month's flooding. Most of the lake's park areas and all of the beaches will be closed until some time next month. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
May 17, 2003
Most of the park areas and campgrounds and all of the beaches at Okatibbee Lake are still closed due to last month's flood damages.
Mark Dean, park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the lake, said it could be the middle of June before all of the beaches and park areas are opened.
That means those areas will be closed for what is traditionally the park's three biggest days of business: Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25.
April floods
Most of the areas around the lake have been closed since April 6, when the first band of heavy rains and storms swept through the area and dumped 9.12 inches of rain in the lake. Three weeks later, on April 24-25, more storms brought nearly 8 more inches of rain.
The lake, a Corps of Engineers flood control project, was built in the 1960s to protect downstream homes and property. But the water held by the lake and dam this spring has inundated restrooms, campgrounds, park areas, beaches and entrance roads into the recreation areas.
And although some of the water has now been released downstream, a great deal of clean-up remains to be done.
Jack Huntley, operations manager of Okatibbee Lake, said he wants to make sure all of the park areas are safe before they are reopened.
Lake still open
Huntley said even though most of the land areas are closed, people can still come out to the lake to fish and use their boats.
Not everything at the park will be closed Memorial Day weekend. Other parts of the park, including the marina and the water park, should be ready to open by then.
Paul Govedare, park manager of the Okatibbee Water Park, said most of his area was spared during the storms.