Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive November 2009 Show 0948 Medicine Park Overview

Medicine Park Overview

Located at the foothills of the Wichita Mountains, Medicine Park, with its one-of-a-kind architecture, has been given new life thanks to a new creative spirit in town.
Medicine Park Overview

Medicine Park

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Medicine Park, Oklahoma

Show Dates

Show 0948: Medicine Park Overview

Air date: November 29, 2009



Rob:  Well, founded in 1908 by one of Oklahoma’s first senators, Medicine Park is one of the state’s most unique small towns.  Located at the foot hills of the Wichita Mountains, the majority of the buildings are constructed out of cobblestones found nearby.  Now, in addition to its one of a kind architecture, Medicine Park has quite the story.  A heritage that has been given new life thanks, in great part to a new creative spirit in town.

Rob:  This week, we take you to the banks of Medicine Creek to see how a small Oklahoma town is tying its future to tourism.

Rob:  With its scenic views and natural water ways, Medicine Park is as serene as it is beautiful.  Centuries before the Europeans, plains Indians came here for the clearer cool waters that they named Medicine Creek.  Today, cobblestone buildings surround a landscape that’s gone virtually unchanged.

Dwight Cope:  It’s kind of a unique place, people here are pretty emblematic of the surroundings themselves it’s different, it’s everybody that comes here saying that this isn’t Oklahoma, but it is, and we have a lot of pretty expressive people if you’ve looked around and saw some of the artwork.

Rob:  Dwight Cope is Mayor of this town of just under four hundred residents; that on weekends, can easily number in the thousands thanks to a thriving arts community.

Rob:  This weekend it is a Native American flute festival; that despite damp weather is bringing folks in from all over.

Keith Gluka:  Well these flutes are a type of flute known as the gimps horn and I’ve adapted it from its Medieval European origins to a Native American scale and a very native material, buffalo horns they start off like this when they’re a raw horn and finish up this way; and it’s a different sound for a Native American south flute.

Rob:  Keith Gluka is from Austin Texas.

Keith:  I have been coming here thirty years.  I started coming here in 1979 to hike in the Wichita Mountains and then I’ve been coming up here off and on for that entire period; and I buy buffalo at the auction every year that they have at the wildlife refuge.  The town of Medicine Park has changed immensely in the last few years, it really started on a serious decline, but now the place is looking great.  The Old Plantation is up and running again, it’s a nice restaurant and the little town seems to be springing back to life.

Rob:  Thanks to the hard work of people like Forrest Ray, a restaurateur from Altus; Ray’s reopened the Old Plantation in March of 2008.

Forrest Ray:  Of course I’m from a rural town.  I’ve already revitalized a little bit of Blair, Oklahoma, and I came over to Medicine Park and saw the opportunity here with the creek and the surroundings and I thought this would be a very good location to come in and start with a restaurant.

Rob:  Ray spent a full two years renovating a building that’s been the heart of Medicine Park ever since 1908, renamed the Grand Hotel in the 1920’s, it has served host to a myriad of guests, from the famous like Will Rogers, to more infamous characters like Al Capone; a vacation hotspot for the roaring twenties, whether it be sunbathing during the day, or a clandestine poker game late at night.

Forrest:  In the 1920’s they could sleep a thousand people in Medicine Park and everything was booked out of, right here in this area and this restaurant.

Rob:  Today the Old Plantation is known more for its meals than its card games; and while Ray is proud of keeping a part of Medicine Park’s history alive, he first and foremost is a businessman.

Forrest:  It boils down to the money.  It’s really easy to come into a smaller town because the town, the town works with you, putting a place together.  And Medicine Park as kind of bent over backwards helping me put everything together.

Rob:  And it’s that same spirit of cooperation that’s behind the town’s most ambitious project yet.

Doug Kemper:  Well it’s the Medicine Park Museum of Natural Sciences, and the tagline is a native wildlife zoo aquarium and botanical gardens.  So we want to get living displays of all the representative species of wildlife, both plant and animal, that occur in the state of Oklahoma, with emphasis of those species here in the southwestern part of the state.

Rob:  Something Doug Kemper knows more than a little about.  Kemper has been the founding director of aquariums in Seattle, Galveston, and Oklahoma’s Jenks aquarium and says he envisions a museum that gives visitors a sense of how we relate to the environment, and the environment to us.

Doug:  The components of it are.  And the ultimate goal is to provide a society, our students, our kids in school, their parents, and parents or when they become parents to instruct their kids of a good basis for making decisions; critical thinking techniques to make decisions about how we relate to one another in society and how society relates to the environment.

Rob:  Kemper says he’s never before found such a community as supportive as Medicine Park and believes this town’s strength truly is its people.

Doug:  Just a very good fit, a naturalistic setting, you’re out at the entrance to, the heart of Medicine Park, right at the entrance to the wildlife refuge.