This past Saturday I drove to Tulsa’s Arts District, just north of downtown, to help work an Earth Day booth for the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition. It had been a long time since I had been to such an event. They used to have them on the main mall during the work week when I was still working.
Just as I got there a fashion show featuring recycled materials was underway. That was interesting.
It was pretty windy. Kind of a full skirt alert thing going on.
They had some musical performances. Some guys drumming and then later on some sort of hippie, country, poppy group who were not bad at all.
Wandering around the other booths I came up on the table for the Carrie Dickerson Foundation. Carrie Dickerson was a determined lady who led a coalition of people that forced the Public Service Company of Oklahoma to abandon the Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant project in 1982 after a nine year battle. Construction on the plant had already started and when it was cancelled, it was the only nuclear power plant to be cancelled as a result of legal and citizen action. As much as I am proud to be a member of an organization that forced an outlet mall to abandon their plans for a mall on Turkey Mountain, I’m in awe of the people who forced Black Fox to be shut down. People don’t remember it much any longer but Oklahoma has populists roots that are still there beneath the surface. RIP Carrie Barefoot Dickerson.
I’ll climb off my soap box long enough to show you a monarch butterfly who I saw flitting around the earth day events.
And then later on a bunch of young women in their prom dresses with their beaus, parents, and photographers came for the photo ops available at Guthrie Green. I thought it was kind of cool. I have great hopes for our young people. They are going to inherit the world. Personally, I think they are up to the task.
Early one morning last weekend I and along with several other members of the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition met with some Tulsa County Park Officials at Chandler Park in west Tulsa.
They showed us an area that they have been reconstructing for some time. They are putting in a lot features and turning into much more than a place to have picnics. They have an event space, complete with substantial electric power capability and a pad that can handle food trucks, and area that can be used for big tents complete with tie-downs. It’s going to be great when they open it up to the public in a few months.
Then they took us on a hike on all three of their trails. Some of them still have some graffiti.
Other areas have been cleaned up with power washers. This area was used in the filming of the upcoming movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” and the movie people cleaned it up.
The “Lost City Trail” at Chandler is unique with all the rock walls, cliffs, and narrow passages. It is a hotspot of activity for the local climbing community.
It has several different overhangs.
They have a pond that they are finishing up. It’s pretty amazing all they are doing.
They are looking to partner with community organizations for events and other attractions. The energy and enthusiasm of the staff was cool.
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.
It’s been a busy and productive past week. A team from the “Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics” based out of Boulder Colorado has been on Turkey Mountain conducting “Leave No Trace Hot Spot” training. A Hot Spot, is an area that is being loved to death and Turkey Mountain fills the bill. What they are trying to do is to teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly to help these areas bounce back.
The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition applied for, and received approval, for the Hot Spot. The River Parks Authority and the Herman and Kate Kaiser YMCA also sponsored the training. The Y provided their beautiful new revamped facility as the site for the training.
The trainers surveyed the mountain and held workshops geared towards local teachers and property managers on how to educate students and park users to be better stewards of the land. It is all data and science driven. Check out their web site. They have a lot of resources available.
I learned a huge amount about how to use a property softly. No more will I throw an apple core into the woods after eating it. Nor will I cut across switchbacks when I am in a hurry. I learned that plastic bottles never decompose, ever. They just break into smaller and smaller pieces and now the average american eats about 44 pounds of microplastics during their lifetime. I also received a great deal of information about peeing and pooping outdoors.
It was also amazing that the Hot Spot training happened the week that the River Parks Authority announced the start of Phase One of the Turkey Mountain Master Plan.
This link has some great ideas to keep in mind when you want to outdoors.
They have a ton of stuff on their Youtube Channel. They have a whole series on “Don’t Be That Guy” Here is the first one.
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.
This past weekend I lucked out and got to for two short hikes into some woods. The first hike was at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. I go there frequently and Saturday I loved it. It was overcast although warm. I love dark and moody. That doesn’t mean that I am a dark and moody person. At least I don’t think it does.
I was actually kind of happy. I had just been asked to join the Advisory Board of the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition and had accepted. TUWC are the group of people that got together when Simon Malls wanted to build an outlet mall on Turkey Mountain (of all places!!!!) and got the community outraged and ended up convincing Simon to go build their stupid outlet mall somewhere else. Talk about a David and Goliath situation.
Anyway, they are not a militant environment organization and are into positive things so I am honored to be part of the organization. The Advisory Board of course is mainly honorary but I plan on redoubling the volunteering and advocacy that I have been doing.
Turkey Mountain isn’t much of a mountain and it isn’t that big, about two miles by one mile, but it is special.
On Sunday, I went geocaching at some soccer fields at the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. Little known fact is that many soccer fields are bordered by woods that separate them from surrounding neighborhoods. These are forgotten pieces of woods by everybody little neighborhood kids and geocachers. The going is a little rough because there are no trails and lots of nettles, stickers, and thorns.
I only found one of the three geocaches I was looking for. One appeared to be beyond the park boundary behind a tall metal fence. A quick check on my iphone showed that it looked to be part of a private estate. I love geocaching and outlaw hikes but out and out trespassing on somebody’s home place? Count me out! So that was a big did not find on that one.
So I looked for three and found only this one. It is kind of like fishing though. If you caught fish every time you cast your line they wouldn’t call it fishing, they would call it catching! To me, finding caches is fun but the major fun is the looking. (If you want to know what geocaching is check this video.) Be assured there are two types of people in this world, those who are on fire about geocaching, and those who don’t get it.
Those edge pieces of woods are pretty neglected. I soaked my legs and shorts with DEET and was wearing a treated shirt but the thorns did a number on my legs. You know something, I don’t feel the cuts when they happen. I call it “suffering for my art.”
So I am chilled out this past week, two times in the woods. How was your weekend?
Over 120 people of all ages showed up for the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition‘s Winter Cleanup Day on a beautiful Saturday morning. We picked up trash, lopped off limbs, seeded, and shaped trails for several hours this morning.
I worked with John and Faith on the lower portion of the blue trail. I had some loppers (that is what I call them) with me and I was exhausted at the end of a mere two hours. I left them to go fetch Logan and they were still going strong. I like pruning branches in the woods. When I prune at home I have to bundle everything up just right for the city to pick them up. Up on the mountain I just toss the branches I cut deeper into the woods.
And a week ago we got some great news on the future of Turkey Mountain. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has purchased the 60 acres on the west side of the mountain that was slated to be developed by Simon Properties into an outlet mall. The foundation owns another 200 acres of land on the mountain and the new tract will be used to expand the footprint of the public wilderness area. It is a win/win. Simon Malls decided to build the mall on a more appropriate site and the private landowners of the 60 acres got paid for the value of the land that we users of the mountain enjoyed at their expense.
So it has been a great week for those of us that love Turkey Mountain.
Great news for those of us who love Turkey Mountain. The City of Tulsa announced that Simon Property Group has formally withdrawn their proposal to build an outlet mall on Turkey Mountain and will pursue building the shopping center in the Tulsa suburb of Jenks. I love that Simon came to their senses. Building a shopping center on the mountain was a very stupid idea for a bunch of reasons. Kudos to a lot of people and organizations and especially the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition for getting this stopped. It is not often in Oklahoma that the people step up and say no to big business on something dumb like this. Their efforts got a lot more people into the park which made things kind of crowded sometime but I think people realized what a treasure we whad.