The story could open with the tale of a guy walking through the woods with a tape measure, or one guiding a bulldozer step-by-step between hilltop post oaks along a path laid with a vision to help military veterans get back on their feet.
But the story of the Jack Graves Sporting Clays Complex on Zink Ranch really starts in the 1930s with a 7-year-old boy in Wagoner County whose father passed away and who later found a mentor in a Wagoner Boy Scouts troop.
“The Wagoner scouting program became a very important part of his life and young adulthood,” John Graves said of his late father, Jack Graves, as he sat at a picnic table under the shade of the patio of the new complex with a warm afternoon breeze filled with the reports of shotguns busy on the nearby shooting range.
Tuesday the Clays Complex, with a five-stand shooting area and 18-station sporting clays course that includes 10 stations with a continuous concrete sidewalk for handicap accessibility, hosted its inaugural event.
About 360 shooters walked the woods and stepped up to the shooting and fundraising challenges in the 24th Shooting Stars fundraiser for the Indian Nations Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The event has raised over $2.2 million for scholarships to send needy kids to a weeklong summer camp at Hale Scout Reservation at Talihina.
“This was the goal, the event we wanted to be open for, and we just made it,” Graves said.
The 100-foot-by-60-foot wood and brick pavilion, with its extended patio, 20-by-25-foot serving kitchen, five wide retractable garage-style doors on either side, and heaters and giant ceiling fans overhead is an all-weather meeting place. It can operate closed and heated for winter or wide open to enjoy summer breezes.
Planners expect to host Boy Scouts from across the nation as well as corporate retreats or other group functions that will help it operate as a continued source of capital for the Scouts, said Pete Garcia, longtime organizer of the Shooting Stars tourney.
The sporting clays complex is one of the first completed pieces of the Jack Zink High Adventure Base. Nicknamed ZBase, it’s a $27.5 million effort by the Indian Nations Council of Boy Scouts and the Zink Family Foundation to develop a world-class outdoors adventure complex that will encompass 35,000 acres on Zink Ranch as well as 10,000 acres of Skiatook Lake, according to ZBase Director Scott Thiessen.
All features of Zbase are planned for completion in 2020, he said.
So far, a base camp with administrative offices, a trading post and lodging are almost complete, and work is underway on the Aerial Adventure area with a zip-line that will cross Skiatook Lake and a 70-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide Adventure Tower ropes course.
Next up will be a Western Village, with a western-style façade that has cowboy-action type shooting on one side of the street and a hotel and restaurant on the other, a Treehouse with an American Ninja Warrior-style course inside, a Native American Area with archery and horses, plus a motorsports course, cable wake park, and an extreme wilderness survival area, Thiessen said.
“We want to offer a selection of unique outdoors adventures,” he said.
The sporting clays complex named for Jack Graves represents an investment of well over $1 million, courtesy of Sarah and John Graves, he said.
Garcia, who has helped organize Shooting Stars since its inception, was called in to help design the course and will continue helping to bring in corporate retreats and other events, he said.
He was the guy walking in front of the bulldozers last year.
Graves gave credit to Garcia, volunteer Larry Bahler and Thiessen.
“He was out here walking around in the woods with a tape measure figuring out where things would go,” he said of Thiessen.
Thiessen said it was Garcia who performed the task of walking in front of the bulldozers to clear the circuitous paths for the shooting stations and the sidewalk that winds through the trees.
“You couldn’t just give them a Point A and Point B and say ‘go from here to there,’” Garcia said. “They asked, ‘Well, where are the plans?’ and I said, ‘There’s no plan, man. It’s right in here,’” he said, pointing to his head and laughing.
In front of the building stands a bronze statue of John M. “Jack” Graves, a shotgun in one hand, his hat in the other, shotgun shell pouches at his waist — that youngster from Wagoner, who became one of Tulsa’s most successful oilmen, now immortalized in bronze in front of a complex for Boy Scouts erected in his name.
John Graves chuckled at the idea of what his father might think of that honor. “If you knew my dad,” he said with a wide grin shaking his head. “Ah. No.”
But the legacy of the senior Graves could have been very different.
“I think I recall my grandmother saying something to the effect, ‘If it hadn’t been for that Scout leader, your daddy would have been in jail,’” he said. “Dad never forgot that.”