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Creek Nation will negotiate to lease Fountainhead Golf Course

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OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) - The National Council of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has voted to allow the tribe to begin negotiating to lease a golf course that otherwise might close.

The resolution, passed March 29 by the legislative body by a 21 - 1 vote, will allow the tribe to discuss lease terms for the Fountainhead Golf Course north of Eufaula with the course's owner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Oklahoma Department of Tourism now operates the 18-hole course under a 100-year lease, but has said it will close the course this summer if another operator could not be found.

Tribal Chief A.D. Ellis said the course is part of a plan by the Creek Nation that also includes Fountainhead Lodge, a nearby resort hotel, and 48 surrounding acres. The tribe bought the lodge and land for $2 million in 2005.

The council voted 22 - 2 March 29 to fund the lodge's demolition, which could begin within the month of April. The tribe plans to replace it with a larger resort hotel and a casino, in hopes that, combined with the golf course, it can create a tourist destination.

Before a casino could be built, the federal government would have to place the land in trust.

Ellis said the golf course needs about $1.3 million in repairs. Former state Sen. Frank Shurden, now a lobbyist for the tribe, said the tribe would like to develop the course into a professional-quality layout that attracts tournaments.

The tribal council also unanimously voted to allow the Lighthorse Tribal Police to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration that would allow a tribal police officer to be cross-commissioned as a federal drug agent.

Lighthorse Police Chief Jack Shackelford has said the agreement would be the first of its kind between the DEA and a tribal police force.

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