By Stan Booker, Lawton Mayor
History is instructive, and Lawton-Fort Sill has a history of vision. In 1901, when Lawton was a tent city, founders knew they could not keep drinking the muddy water of Cache Creek, brought to town by six water wagons. If Lawton was to grow, it must have fresh water.
The first wells were dug, and then our first dam was built. In 1930, the Medicine Springs Creek Dam was extended to supply the new Field Artillery Training School at Fort Sill. The extension of the dam was passed by a visionary citizenry during a time of great economic hardship because those citizens saw the future possibilities and had faith. They knew there were no guarantees of economic gain, as competition for the new school was intense. Even today, the Lawtonian vision continues to produce opportunities for our community.
Opportunity is once again in front of us, and the vision that we exhibit will determine the future. The Army Futures Command’s two Cross-Functional Teams, located at the Fires Center of Excellence, present an opportunity to transform our community. The visionary citizens of Lawton-Fort Sill have taken the first steps to make that transformation a reality.
Now that the community has authorized the funds, we must stay the course. This time it is not an expansion of the water supply. Instead, it is research and development infrastructure in support of the Army’s new priorities. By providing the necessary infrastructure, we will bring high- tech research and development jobs to Lawton-Fort Sill. These are higher paying science and technology jobs that will give our young people the opportunity to thrive in the community in which they were raised. They will be able to pursue the career of their dreams and raise their own families here at home.
Along with the jobs, we must focus on becoming a “city of choice for young families”, but we will not be able to supply the need for science and technology jobs with our graduates alone. Attracting the necessary workforce means we must become the place that young families want to live, work and play. Once again, we face intense competition from other communities for the jobs created and the families that will fill those jobs.
If we want to attract young families, we must invest in our Parks and Recreation facilities. The citizens have authorized a record $20 million investment, which will be transformational to our ability to attract the needed workforce. Soon, with community involvement, we will begin to create the Parks Master Plan. It all starts with evaluating our parks and recreation program as it exists today. And city leaders invite citizens tell us what the plan needs to look like, and what they see other cities doing to attract young families.
Currently, families leave every weekend to take their children to compete in sporting events across the state and even into Texas. With an indoor sports facility, we would become the destination place of families from all over Oklahoma and North Texas.
We all drive by the outdoor sports facility along the interstate at Chickasha and wonder why Lawton-Fort Sill does not have such a facility? The visionary citizens of Lawton-Fort Sill have set us on a trajectory to make this vision a reality. The Parks Master Plan will begin soon and should take eight to 12 months to be completed and returned, ready for action.
With a year to put the Parks Master Plan together, and two to three years for design engineering and construction, we could see the transformation of this critical component in as little as three to four years. Your city council is ready to act fast on the citizen-driven Parks Master Plan implementation.
In February, the visionary citizens of Lawton-Fort Sill passed the PROPEL CIP, and in March, the pandemic hit. The pandemic continues to be a gut-wrenching challenge, but we have not lost sight of the road ahead. We know what our end state looks like. We have a working vision that tells us where and how we need to proceed.
We have work to do. As we progress, we must stay focused on the future. Together we can do this. Together is the only way.