The Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area master plan is as big and as bold as the planners who created it promised.
And that, it seems, is just fine with many faithful users of the 650-acre recreational area between U.S. 75 and the Arkansas River and between Interstate 44 and 71st Street. Many of them attended the public unveiling of the final draft of the master plan at the Crowne Plaza Tulsa-Southern Hills on Thursday night.
“Everything they talked about just sounds wonderful,” said Kaye Robert. “We have four kids. They love everything they talked about.”
At first blush, the plan can be overwhelming. The walls of the hotel conference room were covered with renderings detailing every aspect of the vision created by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the same firm that designed the Gathering Place.
“We see that Turkey Mountain can make a really big imprint as an important element in Tulsa’s identity,” Matt Urbanski, a principal with MVVA, said at the conclusion of his presentation.
Urbanski’s talk focused on the four themes of the master plan: restoring nature, improving access, creating sustainable trails and adding programming.
A simpler way to think of it is this: There’s a plan for the Turkey Mountain that Tulsans have loved for generations and a plan for expanding the wilderness area to places such as Johnson Park, east of the Arkansas River, and Bales Park, west of U.S. 75.
Sandwiched between them are designs for bridges to connect the old and new properties.
The whole thing intrigued Mike Schooling with the Tulsa Bicycle Club.
“I think it is amazing,” he said. “I think it would be such a great complement to the Gathering Place in terms of the more natural area where people can get out.”
The proposed new areas of the park — including the Hinterlands to the west, the Northeast Access near Mooser Creek, and a bike park to the south — are intended to provide space for activities and programming that Turkey Mountain itself could not accommodate.
Urbanski outlined a series of options, particular to each location, ranging from an archery range to an aerial adventure course.
Mountain biker Nicole Beaumont described the plan as positive overall. But if the bells and whistles envisioned for the expanded Turkey Mountain never come to be, she would be just fine.
“It does feel a little bit hokey and a little bit like the things that they weren’t able to accomplish at Gathering Place they’re trying to push onto Turkey Mountain,” she said.
But “some of the more natural aspects they are proposing are really necessary — the prescribed burns, restoring Mooser Creek, those things. I mean, if nothing else were done, that would be such a huge boost to Turkey Mountain ecologically.”
Progressive Trail Design in northwest Arkansas helped put the master plan together.
“The goal is to make as much trail as possible at Turkey Mountain that is sustainable and not as prone to erosion,” said Jason Stouder, the company’s vice president.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation, along with the city, donated hundreds of acres of land on Turkey Mountain to River Parks Authority. As part of that transaction, GKFF offered to fund a master plan for the property.
Funding to implement the plan has yet to be identified. Matt Meyer, executive director of River Parks, said that will be one of the first issues the organization will work on once the master plan is approved by the authority’s board.
“I think we have got to get with our planners and prioritize what is reasonable, what is going to happen first,” Meyer said. “We have to talk with our private partners about funding strategies, which will be a combination of public and private.
“You have to have a plan before you get any funding.”