Statement By Tulsa Audubon on Mohawk Plan
December 2, 2004
On behalf of the Tulsa Audubon Society I want to thank you for the opportunity to present our feedback on the Mohawk Park Master Plan. We certainly support enhancing the park by providing new activities for people to enjoy, and are glad to hear you are still listening to the public as the Master Plan evolves. We are very concerned about some of the specific proposals, however I first want to mention a concern we have with the plan in general.
Mohawk Park is certainly the crown jewel of Tulsa’s parks, and many people come to Mohawk to visit the Zoo or play a round of Golf. But besides those two “destinations” people visit Mohawk to get away from their city or suburban surroundings and enjoy a place that is specifically not heavily developed. At Mohawk people can enjoy a walk down a nature trail, go bird watching, take their families for a picnic, with wide open areas and woods their kids can run around in, go for a bike ride, spend some quiet time on a bank fishing, and many other similar activities. The greatest value of Mohawk Park is the fact that it preserves a large natural, undeveloped area. On a nice spring or summer afternoon it can be difficult to find an unused area for a picnic.
Mohawk Park meets these needs perfectly now. Nowhere are the values of natural, undeveloped space mentioned. Mohawk Park is a refuge from the suburban sprawl that we live with every day. Not understanding this aspect of the Park is the biggest problem we see with this plan.
We also need to remember that Oxley Nature Center is another key destination within Mohawk Park, and activities within the Park can have direct and indirect impacts on both the wildlife and habitat within the nature center. The wildlife in Mohawk park does not understand fences. Oxley enjoys national prominence as a birding destination because of its unique habitat and ease of access. The habitats present a microcosm of the Oklahoma environment providing excellent and accessible educational and research opportunities, enhanced by the availability of historical records from naturalists and birders. Our database of bird sightings shows 250 different bird species have been found in Mohawk Park over the last 4 years.
In addition to those general concerns, we have specific concerns with two of the projects.
The plans for Lake Sherry completely fail to understand that the lake is a part of Oxley Nature Center. Water Lilies are supposed to be growing there - it does not need to be dredged to allow the use of paddle boats! Its purpose is to provide a haven for Wildlife and thousands of Tulsans visit the Lake for that very purpose. Paddle Boats are not a compatible use. The dam certainly does need to be repaired, but Lake Sherry must be preserved from development. Lake Sherry is named after someone who was instrumental in the founding of Oxley Nature Center, and it would be ironic to essentially remove it from the Nature Center.
We are also concerned with the plans for developing a soccer complex. I myself have spent hundreds of hours at soccer fields with my son, and one of our members who birds in Mohawk several times a week is a long-time youth soccer referee, so we understand the need to provide places for this wonderful sport. But we strongly feel that Mohawk Park is definitely not the place for a soccer complex. The traffic, noise and commotion associated with a busy Saturday afternoon of soccer games or a weekend tournament are not compatible with a family going out for a picnic to enjoy a few hours with nature. The Tulsa area already has a large soccer complex, Valley Park, about 10 minutes east of Mohawk Park. Valley Park represents the kind of place that is appropriate for a soccer complex and it should be supported. But it has been experiencing severe financial problems in recent years, and does not need a publicly financed facility competing with it.
In conclusion, we must be careful when developing plans for Mohawk that we do not over-develop it, with structures and facilities that detract from its greatest value to Tulsa – its natural, undeveloped open spaces.