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Stillwater’s Lake McMurtry Deals with Damage

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Local News, Science.
November 10, 2011

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Lake McMurtry in Stillwater is a quiet place, one where someone can catch their breath. But McMurtry faces the threat of private development, and on top of that, is recovering from damage done by a company testing deep underground for oil. Despite the obstacles, the Lake hosted the final stop in the Tour de Dirt Mountain Bike Race this past Sunday…

I’m walking with a small group of volunteers on a trail cleanup at McMurtry, getting in last minute preparations for the race. More than 25 miles of trails envelop the lake, shielding walkers, runners and bikers. The cleanup’s taken on a new sense of urgency since September though. That’s when a company came in to find spots to drill for oil. The city of Stillwater had granted the group a work permit, but Scott Stoodley, founder and president of the non-profit Friends of Lake McMurtry, says they left the lake in bad condition.

“They literally trashed the environment, pulverized the soils, destroyed innumerable stream banks, trees.”

Since Dawson Geophysical came in with their heavy equipment, the company has had come back to fix the damage. They cleared wide swaths of land in the forest, which will eventually have to grow back. And trails have to be marked again.

“They did some activities to try to make it right but it’s been impossible to make it right when you’ve taken a gator through a trail system,” said Stoodley.

Tim Baker is in charge of pollution abatement at the Oil and Gas Division in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“Being a human activity, accidents will happen. And that’s why we have inspectors to follow up to make sure the rules are being followed and also in the event they find an incident we can get it corrected as quickly as we can.”

Baker says in the case of Lake McMurtry, the damage is the concern of the landowner, the city of Stillwater.  In a written statement, the city says it’s been assured the lake will be returned to its original condition.

KOSU reached out to Dawson Geophysical and Red Fork Energy multiple times. Citing company policy, Dawson did not confirm nor deny it did the work at McMurtry. But numerous people told me they saw the company’s equipment at the lake. Red Fork Energy also did not offer comment to KOSU.

Back to McMurtry. Dennis Mayberry has turned the trail system into his pet project as trail coordinator for the local Red Dirt Pedelers. Mayberry saw Sunday’s event as a chance to prove the level of devotion among a small group of volunteers.

“If we cancel the race because of it, that’s just taking away things people plan to do anyway because of somebody else’s decision to destroy the trails.”

So Sunday, more than a hundred bikers took to the wooded paths, a hidden gem in Oklahoma. Mike Kelly has been going to the lake since 1997.

“A lot of us love that lake. You can go to Keystone, or Tenkiller, or Eufaula, anywhere, and not have anything as nice as what we have just ten miles from home.”

Since the city doesn’t own the mineral rights under the trails, Red Fork can go in and do work. Scott Stoodley says his group will keep an eye on the workers, so McMurtry’s trails are preserved for future riders.

5 Responses to “Stillwater’s Lake McMurtry Deals with Damage”

  1. Concerned says:

    How do you know they caused damage? It seems 27 miles of bikes continually rutting the trails causes more damage. Has anyone looked at the damage the Bike Club has caused? Is this a balanced or biased report?

    • Scott Nutt says:

      I respectfully disagree with you on this…I've been volunteering with the Red Dirt Pedalers for eight years working on the 27 miles of trails at Lake McMurtry. We have numerous times rerouted poorly placed tralsl that were subject to water erosion. We've sent representatives to nationally recognized trail building seminars, designed to preserve the trails for all uses, pedestrian and MTN biking alike.
      Three of us confronted the vehicles being driven by contractors in the employ of Dawson Geophysical. They were busily destroying our trails on the Labor Day weekend of 2011. We stopped them and the Friends of Lake McMurtry took legal steps seeking reparation for the damage that was done. Not only did they destroy the trails in numerous locations, they also tore up several fragile stream beds and runoff areas. What keeps McMurtry so clean is that these areas are stable. Tearing them up leaves them susceptible to erosion…with an increase in erosion we will lose the pristine water quality of the lake.
      We also encourage riders to not ride the trails when conditions are such that the trails might be damaged by cyclists. the IMBA has a solid set of recommendations on when to not ride your local trail…we urge cyclists to ride the road or paved urban trails according to those recommendations when the weather goes south.

  2. Kris Biker says:

    SOOOO! It is the Bike Club with the agenda! Blaming the oil company for the damage it has made around the Lake. I have seen the deep ruts the bikes have made. Shame on you guys pointing the finger at someone trying to legally develop minerals for the owners of the oil & gas. Now we see ….

  3. Scott Nutt says:

    You are missing the point….there was no problem with the mineral company coming in and doing their surveying…if you have been to the lake, and walked the trails, you will see that there was absolutely no rhyme or reason as to where they drove their mammoth machines. There is a significant difference between wanton destruction and considering the rights of the community which owns the property.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kris – have you seen the damage? The company doing the work misled the City of Stillwater with what their activities would entail. The City was told a couple of guys with ATVs and backpacks would be out there doing the seismic survey. Instead, the subcontractor brought out at least one gator and cut 15, 2 mile swaths that were 8' x 15' in dimension. They destroyed innumerable trees, damaged hundreds of streambanks, and pulverized the soils. This is not theory, we have GPS photodocumentation of the damage. Go out and see it for yourself, as it's not hard to find.

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