During the recent annual convention, I was asked to give an update regarding the Falls Creek tabernacle debt. A financial update is currently being prepared, and will be presented in the Messenger within the month. In the meantime, I think it is important to share other pertinent information concerning the continuing challenges and progress at Falls Creek.
Meetings with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in regard to the sewer system are ongoing. For more than two years, we have been working with them to determine the best solution to our outdated lagoon system and need for major pipe repairs. We are confident that within the next month, we will receive an amended consent order that will approve our proposal for a new lagoon system. While this is mandated by DEQ, there is no question it is needed. The lagoon will be moved from its present site (near the sports fields) to a new location behind the maintenance barn. Not only will this remove the odor from the recreation area, it will allow us to reclaim nearly four acres for recreational activities.
With final DEQ approval, a three-year phasing of construction will begin in the fall. Obviously this will not occur without significant expense. The projected cost is $4.5 million.
A second DEQ mandated project is the water system. While we have experienced only one or two minor violations over many years, we operate a sand filter system that DEQ regards as inadequate. Even though the water is pure, we are pushing four times more water through the filters during summer peak usage than is allowable. We are under a consent order and are working on engineering studies, including a floodplain study for the plant location. This study should be completed in a few days, and we will be ready to meet with DEQ for approval of a water system. Our initial projection is more than $2.5 million, which could rise if the floodplain study indicates protective walls are required.
How will we pay for these improvements? More than a year ago, a committee of cabin owners and BGCO board members was appointed to help prepare a plan for consideration by the board of directors. Joe Ligon, pastor of Marlow, First, is chairman. I expect the committee to meet in February and have a plan to present either in our March 1 or May 24 board meeting.
Another improvement is pending. A couple of years ago, the state gave the last mile of the high road to us. This allows us to build a new entrance just before the existing north entry to the camp. The process will begin later this year, and plans are also in place for a new north entrance as well as one located on the low road to the Prices Falls area. These new entryways will allow for greater security. This construction cost is being covered by Falls Creek income and reserves.
The state has notified us of imminent plans to begin redirecting and improving the high road all the way to our entrance. This will be inconvenient for a significant time that will encompass summer camp sessions. It will be difficult to endure, but the result will be an incredible blessing. Many will miss the hairpin curves and severe drop-off along the road, but I think we can manage our sorrow!
These physical changes will be challenging. Donors do not usually want their names on sewer lagoons! I have not given up the idea that some may be willing to give to these projects because they are so vital to the operation of the camp. It will require all of us pulling together—that is the Oklahoma way. In the end, we must do what is necessary to continue the remarkable work at the Creek. God continues to use this place to change lives for eternity.
Recently, I preached an associational evangelism conference in Utah. The pastor who picked me up at the airport is on the International Mission Board. He told me he regularly hears testimonies of a salvation experience or call to missions at Falls Creek by those being appointed. One more reminder why dollars spent on sewer systems, a water plant, roads, etc., are not inconsequential, but vital to our future as God’s people.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.