Land bridges to link two Tulsa parks
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 7:52 AM
The Gathering Place for Tulsa's greatest asset - its proximity to River Parks - has presented the park's designers with one of their greatest challenges: how to link the two.
The answer they've come up with is land bridges - one just north of the pedestrian bridge at 28th Street and Riverside Drive and another just south of the pedestrian bridge.
The north land bridge is projected to be 160 feet wide, the south bridge 280 feet wide.
"They are so wide and they have so much landscaping on the edges that they actually become an extension of the park," said Jeff Stava with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which is paying to construct the park. "So you get to pass over Riverside Drive and not even feel like you're on a, quote, 'bridge.' "
Michael Van Valkenburgh, president of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which is designing the park, said the land bridges won't just provide a seamless transition between the two recreation areas, but will make passage across Riverside Drive safer.
Traditional pedestrian bridges "end up being up in the air, and people don't want to be up in the air, they don't want to go up flights of stairs or a ramp or whatever," Van Valkenburgh said. "They say, 'Screw it, I'm crossing. I'm going. I am in a hurry.'
"What we can do with the topography that creates the land bridge is make it so gentle going up to it that you don't even know you're going up in the air."
Ted Zoli with HNTB is engineering the land bridges. He said land bridges are more common in rural areas, where there are more animals crossing the road - often with fatal consequences.
So the Gathering Place land bridges will complement the parks on either side of Riverside Drive by providing one more natural setting, Zoli said,
"Animals are naturally afraid of highways, as well they should be," Zoli said. "It is also uncomfortable to be close to a highway. So one of the challenges with building a sort of bridge that is useful for animals is that it has to be calm enough and wide enough that they will use it."
Land bridges are nothing new - large ones exist in Boston and Seattle, with another nearing completion in Dallas, Zoli said.
Van Valkenburgh, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., points to the area around historic Union Station in New York City as an example of above ground construction that seamlessly blends into the surrounding landscape.
"I think people, they enter the subway station there and it never occurs to them that the park that is next to the subway station is actually held up in the air on a structure," Van Valkenburgh said.
Van Valkenburgh said the land bridge would not be a forest, but the topography would be contoured so visitors would not see the cars passing below.
The idea of a park, he said, is to relax. The land bridges will help visitors to the Gathering Place do just that.
"Crossing a highway is stressful," Van Valkenburgh said. "It's not nice, it's not safe. You have to stop. It is noisy. You have to worry about your kids, you have to worry about your dogs."
The land bridges were originally designed with the expectation that Vision2 and a state bond issue would provide funding to improve Zink Dam and enhance the shoreline along the east bank of the Arkansas River. But with both those funding options gone for now, Van Valkenburgh and Zoli are working to modify how the land bridges transition into River Parks.
"If we can't go out into the river, we'll just turn it (the land bridge) sideways," Van Valkenburgh said. "It's like walking up a hill - if you walk straight up, it is the harder way to do it you go on an angle, it almost feels easy by comparison."
Stava, with the Kaiser foundation, said the engineering and design work needed to modify the land bridge connections into River Parks has pushed back the unveiling of the latest plans for the Gathering Place.
Stava said that will happen in the first quarter of 2013, with construction set to begin about a year later. The project is expected to take two to four years to complete.
Zoli said the land bridges are designed to accommodate Riverside Drive in its current configuration or any other design that might be considered by the city.
Stava said the Gathering Place will go forward regardless of what changes might be made to the roadway.
"We are looking at spending between $100 million and $150 million on our park project," Stava said. "It would be nice if the roadway got redone. Now if the city decides it is not going to do anything with Riverside Drive, then we will build around it."
Gathering Place for Tulsa
To construct the Gathering Place for Tulsa, the George Kaiser Family Foundation plans to transform land it owns east of Riverside Drive, including a small tract of city property, into a unique gathering place that ties into River Parks.
The foundation owns the 33.6 acres of the Blair Mansion property at 26th Place and the 21.5-acre tract that includes the Crow Creek Apartments, also known as the Sundance and Legacy apartments, south of 31st Street. The two tracts are connected by a 4.2-acre plot owned by the city.
The Blair Mansion on Riverside Drive will be moved and is not part of the plan.
Original Print Headline: Two Tulsa parks to be linked by land bridges
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313