When one looks at the maps of Old Sulphur Springs, it will be noted that north of the town, across Sulphur Creek, is an area called Central Park. A wooden footbridge connected the town with the park.
The area was flat and beautiful, nestled among large oaks, elms and sycamore trees. It was located at the confluence of Sulphur and Rock Creek. This was the perfect place for the family reunion, picnic or just a leisurely stroll on a summer's eve.
When the Sulphur Springs Reservation was segregated in 1902, Central Park was part of the land acquired. As the new town of Sulphur tried to find a place to settle down, some people moved south, some west and some north.
This made it necessary for a road to be built through the reserve from the South Side to the North Side. This new road, called the Buckhorn Road, cut Central Park in two pieces. These two parks became known as East Central Park and West Central Park. East Central Park later became known as Central Camp Ground. West Central Park became known as Flower Park.
Although there had been camping in the Park since it's inception in 1902, group camping was generally frowned upon. On several occasions, groups came to the park and slept in tents but did not cook or build fires. Normally these people went to Sulphur to eat and bathe.
When Col. Greene took over as Superintendent in May of 1907, he asked the Secretary of Interior for permission to make East Central Park a group camping area. Today this area is known as Central Campground.
In the Spring of 1907 Greene approaches the Secretary about the possibility of creating a group camping area for organizations as the Baptist Annual Encampment, United Confederate Veterans and Grand Army of the Republic.
A veteran and ardent supporter of the Union cause, Greene was incensed the previous year when the Confederates paraded through the Park with the Confederate Battle Flags flying. Still he would allow them to again visit the Park sans the 'Stars and Bars'.
The Secretary agrees that the experiment with group camping in a national park would be a good thing to try at Platt. He instructs Greene to choose six acres called East Central Park and create the necessary amenities such as fire pits and comfort stations in the area.
Evidently, from the language in the official letters between the Superintendent and the Secretary of Interior, Platt National Park was the first Park in the system to have group camping.
The 1908 encampments were again a huge success and were readily accepted by the public. The Confederate reunion was so great that extra measures had to be taken to accommodate the 250 teams and rules were waived to allow the great crowds room to camp. Greene complimented the various groups for their orderly conduct and leaving the grounds in a neat and sanitary condition.
Greene allowed both the G.A.R. and the Confederate Veterans to have a sham battle if they chose. The Confederate re-enactment drew 3,000 spectators from the visitors and town while the Grand Army mock attack and bombardment of a fort drew 2,000 spectators.
Greene was so elated with the success of the past season's group camping that he proposed that a speakers stand be built for the coming tourist season. In a letter to the Secretary, Greene states that "The experiment proved an unqualified success".
About 1932, there was a section of the park that was designated as the "Colored Only" area. This area had a nice swimming pool, tables but no camping area for Negro visitors. The CCC map of 1935 shows this location to be the Panther Falls area. Evidently the "colored area" had been moved at some point to Central Campground from Panther Falls about 1937.
Many times the black youngsters would go to Panther Falls at 10:00 or 11:00 at night to swim since there was no white folks there at that time. It was a much better swimming hole than the one at Central Campground.
In 1938 the CCC built a new comfort station in the colored camp ground now called Central Camp Ground.
Today the campground is reserved for groups of 10 or more campers. It is open from about Memorial Day to Labor Day and by reservation.
© 2006 Dennis Muncrief