Not to toot my own horn, but I guess I will. I helped to plan and implement a scavenger hunt on Turkey Mountain this past weekend. It was originally supposed to be New Year’s but it got postponed because of weather.
The RiverParks Authority gave me thirty items to give away. Small stuff like stickers (people go nuts over stickers these days) and key chains. I conceived the idea of using repurposed cd jewelboxes and designed new covers and “liner notes” for containers for the giveaway items.
So late last Friday I loaded up my jewel boxes and headed to Turkey Mountain. My friend Laurie from the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition helped me place them on different parts of the mountain. It turned out to be a good workout with about 5 miles of hiking involved.
We didn’t really hide them because we wanted people to find them. The RiverParks Authority also had people out and about placing bigger items like water bottles and tshirts on the mountain. They also had people adding new stuff during the day.
We hid one in the famous washing machine at a crossroads on Turkey Mountain. (It’s actually a drier but I get dirty looks when I bring up that fact. Ever notice that anybody who says “actually” gets dirty looks.?
I was busy but I always take time for photos.
Especially when the sun is setting.
Here’s a screen shot of the facebook invite for the event.
Channel Six here in Tulsa showed up and did a story on the event.
A good time was had by all. I was proud to be a part of it.
Friday afternoon the Tulsa Riverparks Authority held a ground breaking on the lower parking lot at the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. They announced that phase one of the Master Plan to protect and preserve Turkey Mountain was going to start on November 15. It is incredible to many of us to have this day. A few years ago Simon Properties announced a project to develop an Outlet Mall on a private tract of land on Turkey Mountain. A small group of people said No!! It took a while and several times it looked like all was lost but the people prevailed. How many times have you heard of ordinary people forcing a multibillion dollar conglomerate to stop a project on private land. That core group of people were what became the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.
After Simon moved on to another site (where the project languishes to this day), the River Parks Authority held a series of public meetings and asked the citizens what they wanted out of Turkey Mountain. There were thousands of comments but they kind of boiled down to, first: Leave Turkey Mountain Alone, and second, Make it Better. The result was the Master Plan providing a framework of the work needed on Turkey Mountain.
Master Plans are fun, a big wish list. But it was not funded. So although we were excited about it we knew that it could be a while before anything happened. Well the RiverParks Authority started reaching out and making public/private partnerships and got a few grants, and a few dollars allocated from the City, the County, and the State and now they have enough money to fund much of the plan and work is starting this month on a new gateway trail from the lower parking lot to the top of Turkey Mountain and beyond.
So Friday we all gathered at Turkey Mountain and after some blessedly short speeches from the various VIPs, the symbolic dirt was turned. It was great. A couple minutes later, members of the Coalition were invited to grab a shovel and turn some dirt.
That’s s me at the far left. I was not part of the original group of people but I have been on the Advisory Board for a few years now and have a big sense of ownership of the organization.
So we celebrated a little bit but this morning we were back at it with a cleanup on Turkey Mountain sponsored by the Coalition and Leave No Trace. About 30 to 40 of us gathered up bags of garbage, cleared out downed trees, removed non-native species, repaired some trail, and rebuilt other trails. If you want to join in the fun hit the link to learn more and maybe even join the Coalition.
In my next post I’ll be discussing Leave No Trace. They have been at the Mountain for a week looking at things and leading workshops for various stakeholders. They are an amazing organization and I can’t to talk about them and what they do a little bit.
Big News out today in Tulsa for those of us who love the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. The RiverParks Authority has announced that it is beginning the first phase of the Turkey Mountain Master Plan. Construction on thirteen miles of trail will begin this Fall. The trails are being designed by Progressive Trail Design who designs and build trails all over the country.
This is huge news for Tulsa. Six years ago a company announced plans to build an outlet mall on the mountain. It seemed like an unstoppable force but a small group of citizens (the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition) organized opposition to the outlet mall and guess what, the mall decided to go somewhere else in town. And further, that somewhere else, the company scraped off a bunch of dirt and started construction and then quit (they say only temporarily) leaving kind of a big muddy mess. (Thank goodness they didn’t do that on Turkey Mountain is what I say.)
Two years ago the RiverParks Authority got funding to develop a master plan. As part of the process input was provided by thousands of Tulsans on what they wanted Turkey Mountain to look like. What they came up with was wonderful. Check it out here. A great plan but an unfunded plan.
So now they have enough funding for the design and construction of thirteen miles of trail. Professionally designed trail rather than overgrown deer trails.
The existing trails on Turkey, although we love them were not designed. They just kind of happened. We have trails that go straight up hillsides and those trails are eroded rocky boulder fields now. The trails are not sustainable and get very muddy after rains where the water puddles up.
The new trails will be more accessible to a wider population segment. I’m pretty comfortable on Turkey Mountain now but it took me years to get that way. I know which trails are almost impossible to traverse. As new trails are built, many of the older trails are going to blocked off and retired to let the land rest. All this is exciting news.
Want to learn more? Listen to the Official Turkey Mountain podcast. Ryan Howell of the RiverParks Authority talks about the problems with the existing trails and the promise of the new. He also talked about restoring the bulk of Turkey Mountain to an Oak Savanna via the use of prescribed burns and removal of non-native species. He also discusses the history of Turkey Mountain including tales of buried gold and Viking explorers.
Consider joining the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition. It’s a nominal cost and you will find out about work days, which are a lot of fun. TUWC’s scope is all the urban wilderness spaces in Tulsa, not just Turkey Mountain. They have become a resource for other organizations in the Tulsa area. (Full disclosure, I am am member, and all opinions on this blog are my own.) Check out and like their facebook page.
If you are on instagram follow the Turkey Mountain account. (more full disclosure, I post photos to that account once or twice a week.)
The YMCA has shut down to totally renovate their facility and are opening up this summer. It’s going to be great and one of the things they wanted was more defined and easier to hike trails to connect their property with the rest of Turkey Mountain. The existing trails are badly eroded and unmarked and many of their day campers who go off hiking get lost.
So the Riverparks staff and a few of the officers from the Wilderness Coalition mapped out a new trail that should make everybody happy. Y daycampers, and the many hikers and mountain bikers that use the trail. It features some switchbacks which should reduce erosion problems.
Everybody grabbed shovels, picks, saws, loppers and got to work and we got the new trail pretty much done in a few hours. People started using the new trail while we were in the middle of building it.
It’ll take some finishing touches but they started putting up my trail markers right away.
And we spent some time closing off the old badly eroded trail with fallen branches. It needs to heal.
We celebrated our work with a few adult beverages in the parking lot afterward. Everybody was very proud of the work done. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
And up pops a map on a facebook page showing the old and closed routes. I am stealing this map also. I am leading quite the life of crime lately. Anyway you can see the new route is longer, not near as steep, and with switchbacks. Hopefully erosion will be more easily controlled on the new route.