Tulsa’s “Gathering Place” Riverfront Park Opens

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Saturday, September 8 was a big day in Tulsa. A Gathering Place, our new $465 million privately financed public park opened up. Seven years in the making, over three years of construction, including shutting down a one mile stretch of one of Tulsa’s busiest streets, Riverside Drive, came to an end (kind of they still have a some final touches to do.) And they took down the barricades and told everybody to come on down and check out your new park and  despite the sometimes misty weather people did.

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The Architect who designed it is Michael Van Valkenburgh. He and his firm have designed other parks and he came  well recommended. He spent a lot of time just  listening to the people who were financing the park about what they wanted and he came to Tulsa and looked at the city and the surrounding region and tried to capture the soul of the city.

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One article I read talked about his visit to Chandler Park and how struck he was with the “lost city section” with the stone making seeming streets and alleys and he incorporated that concept into the park.

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The place is full  of details. I think they spent a fortune on landscaping, including many wildflowers.

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And stuff to do? My gosh their is a lot to do there. Especially if you have kids. I think this log course above might be something I could try.

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They have a lot of areas for relaxing and will have several restaurants. This a nice area that is well shaded. I love the wood furniture.

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This is view from the the previous area down to a bridge across a pond.

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And this is from  the bridge back up to the eating area. This is the ONEOK Boathouse. My employer paid for it. (I’m so proud, really, I am.) What a legacy. (And yes ONEOK is all caps, you pronounced it One Oak.)

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The heart of the park is a huge playground for kids of all ages. Oh man, for the first time since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a little kid. This looks fun.

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And so does this. I would settle for having an eight year old again. Son Logan was with me, but he is 20 years old and 6’3″ tall.

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Kids were having a blast. Talk about a bunch of places to climb into, climb across, slide down. It is the ultimate “do touch” place. And yes, it is all free. There is no charge. In addition to the $400 million is money for security and maintenance. What a gift to the city.

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The concept of A Gathering Place is that is a place for the whole city to come and reconnect from each other. I think we need it. A little known secret is that Tulsa is home of the worse race riot in US history, the Tulsa Race Riot, now increasingly known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Read about it here.

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In my opinion, the city has never recovered from that and the wounds still exist. There are still survivors of the riot alive in Tulsa today. Anyway, the New York Times has a pretty good, if a little more than slightly condescending article on the park, and the riot. Read it here.

Read the comments also. I know us Okies get a bad rap and my favorite comment was from a New Yorker who said she would never visit the state because she hates us Okies because of the hate we have in our heart. (Huh).

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Be that as it may, the park is fun, and great. And I expect to spend a lot of time there especially when the hubub dies down a little bit. It is only a couple miles from downtown where I work. I figure during the day the kids will be at school, so I can come and try out the banana slide for myself.

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Pooh!! I know it is probably not officially a Pooh bear, who could afford the licensing fees. It has a nook inside just right for several kids and an adult reading a story.

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There was a steel drum band playing. I love steel drum bands.

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My favorite place is probably the Williams Lodge. It is like a ski lodge in the Rockies. The woodwork is superb. 

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I loved the ceiling!!

The guy behind the park is a Tulsa Oilman billionaire philanthropist named George Kaiser, who over the years has been very generous to Tulsa through his George Kaiser Family Foundation. He is in the oil business and obviously has done very well. I know several people who have worked for and with him and they credit him as being a very good but tough boss and also thinks very out of the box. I get the impression that he is playing chess when everybody else is trying to figure out checkers. He has several hundred million dollars invested in the park and was able to convince lots of other companies to contribute as well.

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The fireplace is a favorite.

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The designer of the place had to contend with something. Most of the land was on one side of Riverside Drive and the Arkansas River was on the other side. He wanted to integrate the park with the river so he used “land bridges” to link the park with the river. There are two of them and they are genius.

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I am just glad the running/biking trail is back in business. It is all new. For three years we have contended with the one mile gap, now we don’t any longer. And the trail integrates well with the park.

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Sports is a big thing in America and Tulsa and the park has tons of sports courts of all kinds. Logan and I sat down and watched the ladies play 3 on 3 basketball. They were very very good. The park plans on having lots of sports programming.

I am linking with Our World Tuesday, come join us!

7 thoughts on “Tulsa’s “Gathering Place” Riverfront Park Opens

  1. Driller's Place

    This would be a great day trip for families outside of Tulsa to come and explore. Even though the grandkids are now 15 & older, I may still have to drive down Riverside to check this out. Thanks for sharing these images.
    I am going to forego the NY Times article since their hearts are filled with condescension.

    Reply
  2. Sallie

    This is quite amazing Alan! Wow. I have never heard of a privately funded public park and especially it is amazing that it is all free to use. How nice to see a wealthy person giving back to his community. And the planners and architects and technicians and artisans and gardeners who made it all happen did a wonderful job, it looks beautiful and I’d love to visit there. Nice to have the running path finished and integrated into the park too.

    I will read the NYT article you linked, but maybe not the comments. Smug people who say things like ‘I won’t visit such and such a place because of blank blank’ annoy the heck out of me. How does that kind of attitude help anyone — and how does it help the person who says that to learn anything about people, history, beauty, nature… People can be so stupid.

    Reply
  3. Gaelyn

    This is a great looking place for people to gather. All kinds of fun and space to play. I look forward to you visiting, and photographing, more. Please take someone with to get a shot of you on the banana slide.

    Reply

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