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Work continues on Cherokee Nation park in Oklahoma

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ROSE, Okla. (AP) – Workers have completed nearly one-third of a six-phase, $4.42 million project to develop the Cherokee Nation’s first national park in northeastern Oklahoma.

“There is a lot going on out there,” said Lisa Melchior, president of the Saline Preservation Association. “It’s just a beautiful location, a little hidden treasure in the backwoods.”

The jewel of the 14-acre Saline National Park is the 125-year-old Saline District Courthouse, named for its proximity to salt wells. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the two-story building is the only one of the nine, 19th-century Cherokee Nation courthouses left, reports show.

Justices handled misdemeanor and civil cases there, with more serious cases taken to Tahlequah. The tribe disbanded the district courthouse system at about the turn of the 20th century. The Saline building was sold and used as a residence until about 1970, reports indicate.

A 2005 master plan for the property includes springhouse and pond restoration, fence along the road and cemetery, a memorial trail, courthouse restoration, an entry drive and parking lot, and construction of a learning center.

“I was just so surprised when I first saw it to think, ‘I grew up here,’?” Melchior said of the site. “I never knew about this place.”

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the springhouse and pond upgrades, she said. The cedar property fence is done, and the metal fencing around the cemetery is to begin soon.

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Lead-paint abatement is under way at the approximately 57-by-25-foot courthouse.

Also, the owner of a nearby 1880s-era log cabin has agreed to donate it to the site. The tribe is working to raise the money to move that structure, Melchior said.

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