Large crowds seeking fun on the Illinois River and outfitters who serve them are creating a serious traffic safety hazard on State Highway 10.
Visitors may have noticed vehicles parked on the highway right-of-way, sometimes extending very close to the road. They may also have noticed the heavy traffic, including semi-trailer trucks and the constant stream of buses and trailers loaded with rafts. Many drivers coming off the river are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Hundreds of cars and trucks were parked illegally near the highway this past weekend, appropriating the public’s property from the intersection of Highways 10 and 62 North to the area of Hanging Rock. The right-of-way – in most cases – extends 40 feet from the center of the roadway.
Heavy wear from parked vehicles causes increased soil erosion and litter, big factors affecting water quality.
It is a good thing that our economy benefits from the folks coming to Oklahoma’s most precious scenic river, but it may be only a matter of time before someone is hit by oncoming traffic.
This problem is occurring despite Oklahoma Department of Transportation appeals to law enforcement agencies, including the Grand River Dam Authority Police and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Authorities have held meetings with river outfitters who don’t seem to get the message or don’t tell their customers where to safely park.
I hope authorities get this problem under control before a tragedy happens.
Ed Brocksmith is a retired media professional and cofounder of Save The Illinois River Inc. He was program director for a Tulsa radio station and then public relations director at Northeastern State University.