One of the most beautiful recreational parks in the state is in DeSoto Parish. It’s not on a main highway, but it’s very easily accessible. Turn off Highway 191 at Circle Drive and reduce your speed a bit; the winding, smooth blacktopped road ahead is the approach to Oak Ridge Park.
Every season of the year brings its own delights to the forested areas of DeSoto, but in the fall when the colors of the oak leaves change from summer’s deep green to a brilliant fall orange, it all but takes your breath away. There’s something heart-stopping about driving under a canopy of oak trees with limbs that reach and ramble and curve and move gently in the wind. You’ll intuitively slow down, lower the windows, breathe deeply and enjoy the scenery.
While some may still be unfamiliar with Oak Ridge Park, if you’re the outdoor type, enjoy walking in the woods, like to fish or if you have watersports in your blood, you know about it. The park occupies more than 117 acres of land on the east side of Toledo Bend Reservoir with 7.75 miles of shoreline. The entire site is a mecca for fishermen and anyone who enjoys boat riding, water skiing, and other water sports.
In the early morning as mist rises from the water, fishermen arrive, launch their boats and head out to catch the big one while Mother Nature provides a spectacular view of the lake. After a day of baiting hooks, reeling in fish or enjoying other types of outdoor recreation, one can easily become mesmerized by the brilliance of the sun’s rays streaking across the lake.
Folks fortunate enough to keep an RV in the park all year long have a sense of the water’s depth, width, where the fish are biting, and a very healthy respect for all of Mother Nature’s talents.
Patricia Norwood, Administrative Coordinator I, says bird watchers come on occasion; families come to enjoy outdoor meals in lighted pavilions with tables for use by the visitors. The grounds are kept clean by Facility Assistant Maintenance Manager Daniel Jones. And he does his job very well considering the overall scope of the park.
Oak Ridge Park has always been the fisherman’s paradise, but with recent and upcoming upgrades, the pleasure that awaits visitors is hard to describe. It’s always been a place where you could open the car doors and let the kids experience nature like they never have before.
Improvements underway at Oak Ridge Park have been paid for by the DeSoto Parish Police Jury (DPPJ) through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Sabine River Authority (SRA). This was no small accomplishment on the part of the DPPJ, for some felt needs were greater elsewhere. But having everyone’s best interests at heart, the DPPJ set aside a total of $560,000 from already stretched budgets to begin the project. To lighten the budget strain, DPPJ agreed to pay $140,000 annually for four years. Again, this may seem like an easy thing to accomplish, but money issues are seldom resolved quickly; dollars demand discussions, as well as give and take. Often it seems a depressingly long wait for due process. SRA agreed to furnish labor and hand over to DPPJ receipts showing how their dollars were spent.
Items in the overall improvement project include upgrading the infrastructure for the park including electrical, water and sewer facilities to all RV pads; building two large pavilions on concrete pads with steel beam structure and lighting; and building five or six small pavilions later along a white sandy beach for families to enjoy a picnic and let kids play in the water and sand. As an added benefit, there is a new RV camping area with approximately 20 pads especially designed for families and groups to enjoy the park and one another's company, wholly funded by the DPPJ.
What’s taking place is the creation of a new ‘old’ place for all to enjoy.
By Edna Wheless