A Place That’s All About the Lake
Havens | Grove, Okla.
Published in the New York Times
Published: December 19, 2008
W. C. FIELDS, whose position on water was that he never touched the stuff, would feel supremely left out at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, which covers 46,500 acres north, south and west of Grove, Okla. Grand Lake, as the locals call it, favors participants over spectators; its boats are big-motored; and the docks that shelter them are tin-roofed and massive.
“The development on Grand Lake is different from some of the other lakes down here regulated by the Corps of Engineers in regard to access to water, where you can place a dock, where you can trim brush,” said Alden Buerge, a banker from Joplin, Mo., who bought a 3,000-square-foot second home near Grove in 2002. “Grand Lake is just much more open. It’s a place to go and have fun on the water.”
There’s no question that Grove, in northeast Oklahoma, is all about Grand Lake, a fishing hot spot full of crappies, catfish and bass. Some of the nation’s top professional fishermen cruised its coves in 2006 and 2007 in the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Sooner Run tournament. But Grand Lake is also home to the casual angler who just wants to jam a chunk of hot dog on a hook in hopes of teasing out a lunker catfish.
Grove is also just two and a half hours away from Branson, Mo., the country music tourist mecca, and that proximity was a lure for the country picker Roy Clark, one of the stars of the television show “Hee Haw.” “This place filled a lot of things in us we weren’t even aware of,” said Mr. Clark, who lives in Tulsa and has a theater in Branson and a second home in Grove that he bought in 2005. “I can go out my front door and be right on the water, and go out my back door and step onto a championship golf course.”Mr. Clark added: “Our main home’s in Tulsa, and sometimes when we’re here we have mixed emotions, like we’re forsaking our home in Tulsa. But when we’re in Tulsa we say, ‘How long has it been since we’ve been to the lake?’ And we’re right back here again.”
Grove’s location in the south-central United States means that it attracts many second-home buyers from Dallas, St. Louis and Wichita, Kan. — and their far-flung children. “We did this a lot for the kids and grandkids,” said Gary Sparks, a Tulsa architect, who spent eight months making the 2,500-square-foot Grand Lake home he bought in 2007 for $230,000 more open and water-friendly. “We have kids in Kansas City, and it’s a great middle ground between the families. We’re all water freaks — four of our six grandchildren live in the water — so it’s just perfect.”
The golf courses are getting better in and around Grove, the grape vines are maturing at the local wineries, and sailboats fill the slips at the two yacht clubs. Local residents say they welcome Grove’s transition from an eye-blink into a resort town. What they don’t want, though, is for Grove and Grand Lake to become an extension of Branson and Lake of the Ozarks.
“People want to get away from that hustle and bustle,” said Chuck Perry, a longtime resident and a real estate agent. “And when they do, they come here.”
Away from the lake, it’s not uncommon to see a pasture on one side of the road and a golf-and-new-homes development on the other. The remnants of the old Route 66 run west of town to Tulsa, exciting the nostalgia-seekers.
Living on Grand Lake means being out on the water doing something — fishing, pontooning, water-skiing, Jet-Skiing, tubing, sailing — with only the briefest breaks to run into town for ribs and potato salad. As development continues along the lake’s 1,300 miles of shoreline, Grove is increasingly the hub that second-home residents run to.
“Grove is really a town in transition,” Mr. Perry said.
When the construction of the Pensacola Dam created Grand Lake in 1940, Grove was what Joe Neill, another local agent, called “just a poor, red-dirt town.”
But as demand for lake frontage accelerated over the last decade, Grove morphed into a resort and second-home community. Its badges of gentrification include Gourmet’s, a high-end food and kitchen equipment store, and the Wax Bucket Candle and Gift Shop. There are also good restaurants like Raggedy’s for soup and sandwiches — though the doughnut shop, the corner cafe and the Grand Lake Sports Center (which advertises three types of bait: live, dead and fake) still rule the day.
There are the conversation-minded fishermen who spend November and December sitting on theater chairs in the heated fishing shack at the Four Seasons Resort, owned by Bill and Sharon Davis, and dunking for crappies through a open well in the floor.
Grove, Okla. “We probably pulled more fish out of that hole than there are in the whole lake,” Mr. Davis said, with a knowing nod to crappies’ powers of regeneration.
The lake and its surroundings have a rustic peacefulness that encourages spending the morning on a sun-warmed lawn chair, watching blue herons stalk along a dock shaded by a rusty Phillips 66 sign. And it doesn’t often freeze in winter — Grove’s average low temperature in January is 35 degrees — so it’s possible to be on the water year-round.
There’s not much in the way of fine-dining options, and the surrounding region is very rural. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Tulsa.
The Real Estate Market
New construction on and around Grand Lake takes several forms: tear-downs of older homes on the lake to build new and larger properties; new construction on vacant land; or buying in a residential development, often with a golf course in the mix. Such communities can be found on Bird Island, Monkey Island and Patricia Island, which are all actually peninsulas.
Though the lake is about 80 percent developed, land on the lakeshore is relatively affordable. “You can get a real nice three-bedroom home with 100 feet of shoreline, a dock with a 30-foot slip and a 20-foot slip and a couple of WaveRunner lifts, all for about $500,000,” said Jeff Savage, an agent with Re/Max Grand Lake.
The median price for a waterfront house is currently about $311,000, Mr. Savage said, and waterfront lots average about $146,000. Recent sales included a two-year-old, 3,800-square-foot house with four bedrooms, three baths and a view of a Grand Lake estuary that sold for $410,000.
The market has cooled in 2008, according to statistics compiled by Mr. Savage. The number of residential properties sold in the Grove area fell by 14 percent, though the average sale price rose 16 percent. “The higher-priced homes are still selling,” he said. “Thirty-seven homes over $500,000 sold this year. Seven were over $1 million.”
Mr. Savage added: “A lot of times people who have homes on the market take them off the market for November and December, so their families can spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s on the lake. Then February, March, they put them back on the market.”
Penny Sternbeck, a local real estate agent transplanted from California, said: “We get an awful lot of people who come here from California. What costs $500,000 there costs $250,000 here.”
LAY OF THE LAND
POPULATION 6,011, according to a 2006 Census Bureau estimate.
SIZE 9.1 square miles.
WHERE Grove is near the Missouri border, and is a one-and-a-half-hour drive northeast from Tulsa, Okla.
WHO’S BUYING Many people from the south-central United States, including Dallas and St. Louis. But the town also attracts buyers from as far away as California and New Jersey.
WHILE YOU’RE LOOKING Rooms at the Best Western TimberRidge Inn (120 West 18th Street, Grove, Okla.; 918-786-6900; bestwestern.com/timberridgeinn) range from $77 to $86 a night.
Dave & Debbie Wagenblatt, The Get “Grand” Results Team©, are top producing Realtors® with REMAX Executives at Grand lake, OK. To learn more about the Grand Lake area and community visit their web site www.SurfGrandLake.com
Further note form Dave… althougth Grove over all property sales were down as Mr. Savage mentioned the lakefront home market gas remained strong and is expected to continue. After all the article said it. ” A Place that’s all about the Lake! Also the fine dining of course would not compare to NYC… Yet.