Groups putting up trees downtown in streetscape project
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Monday, March 04, 2013
3/04/13 at 7:49 AM
About 140 trees went up around downtown in the weeks before the Bassmaster Classic as the Downtown Coordinating Council and its partners rushed to trim an estimated backlog of 500 empty sidewalk tree wells before the arrival of thousands of fishing enthusiasts.
Once the group's latest streetscape work is complete - likely sometime in March - 171 new trees will line streets within the Inner Dispersal Loop.
"I think people will be surprised when spring comes along with all of these new trees that weren't there," said Tom Wallace, chairman of the coordinating council's Streetscape Committee. "It'll just be a greener downtown."
The coordinating council estimates that downtown had about 500 empty tree wells - dirt beds abutting or built into sidewalks - when its work began. As part of the city's downtown streetscape master plan, the group seeks to plant trees in most of them while expanding or creating a handful of wells through early 2014.
The first phase of the master plan, completed in January, included landscaping four entrances to downtown and planting a handful of trees.
The council planned up to 400 new trees in a second phase this fall, but opted to tackle a portion of that work before the Bassmaster Classic. Phase "2A" has focused on bus routes that served the people attending bass weigh-ins at the BOK Center and an exposition at the Convention Center.
"We kind of tried to use that as a way to accelerate and motivate all of us that are working on this to get done by the time the tournament got here," Wallace said.
Organizers may not have expected feedback from people who attended the event, but "people that I know have noticed it and have commented on it," Wallace said. The real impression will come in spring, organizers said.
"They look like dead trees right now, but in a couple months they're going to start blossoming out and it's going to make a big difference," said Tom Baker, manager of the coordinating council.
Studies have shown that urban trees make cities look more inviting and reduce crime by improving neighborhoods' perceived worth, Wallace said.
Baker said phase 2A cost slightly less than $250,000, with about $125,000 coming from Tulsa Stadium Improvement District assessment fees, which are paid by property owners within the Inner Dispersal Loop.
The Tulsa Beautification Foundation, a division of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, funded the remainder of the project.
The streetscape plan's first phase cost $392,000 and included irrigation, trees and other landscaping at downtown entrances on Denver Avenue, East Sixth and Seventh streets, and West Seventh Street.
Phase 2B calls for another 150 to 200 trees by this fall or early 2014, with a third phase - mostly adding trees to areas that would require new tree wells - eyed for the following winter.
The volunteer tree-planting program Up with Trees has provided the labor and committed to watering the trees for two or three years, Wallace said.
The coordinating council's Streetscape Committee is exploring ways to include other beautification projects with the next batch of trees. That could include a contest in which downtown stakeholders would plant flowers to compete for the right to select the location of a block of new trees.
Original Print Headline: Downtown going green
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Quentin Hendricks with Up With Trees works to plant a tree at East First Street and South Elgin Avenue last week. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Steve Grantham of Up With Trees prepares a tree to be planted at East First Street and South Elgin Avenue. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Quentin Hendricks with Up With Trees works to plant a tree downtown. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World