Statement By Tulsa Audubon on Mohawk Plan
Statement About the Mohawk Park
We want to commend the parks department for a greatly improved plan. You have listened to the many constituents who have an interest in the park and done an admirable job balancing many varied activities. But we feel there are still opportunities to make it even better.
As we have all stated previously, Mohawk Park is certainly the “crown jewel” of Tulsa’s parks, and people visit Mohawk for a variety of reasons. The Tulsa Zoo, the golf courses and Oxley Nature Center are several “destinations” people visit within the Park. But what makes Mohawk the “crown jewel” is that it provides a place for Tulsans of all ages to get away from their city or suburban surroundings and enjoy a place that is specifically not developed. This “green space,” or “natural area,” or “urban wilderness” will become even more valuable in the future as the inevitable suburban sprawl ends up surrounding the Mohawk Park area.
At Mohawk people can take their families for a picnic, with wide open areas and woods where their children, of all ages, can simply run around, throw a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball. They can enjoy a walk down a nature trail, go for a bike ride, spend some quiet time on a bank fishing or go bird watching. On a nice spring or summer afternoon Mohawk Park is filled with people, and it can be difficult to find an unused area for a picnic.
Mohawk Park and Oxley Nature Center also enjoy national prominence as a birding destination because of its unique habitat and ease of access. The habitats present a microcosm of the Oklahoma environment and provide excellent and accessible educational and research opportunities. 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.
In the original draft of the Master Plan nowhere are the values of natural, undeveloped space specifically mentioned. We hope that in the final draft these values are recognized. Mohawk Park is a refuge from the suburban sprawl that we live with every day. I know you understand these things, but not formally recognizing this aspect of the Park in the actual plan is still the biggest problem we see.
I also want to respond to the interview I recently had with Dillon Dodge on KFAQ radio. We are not opposed to developing areas for more active recreation, such as soccer, BMX or skateboarding. What we do stand for is proper land use policies, because land, and the natural habitat it contains, is a finite resource that must be protected and used wisely. Most of us are parents and we want soccer fields and other recreation areas for our children - we simply want them located in an appropriate location. And Tulsa Audubon will strongly support such proposals. Because even though skateboard parks have nothing to do with bird watching, when they are located in an appropriate location that means an inappropriate location is being spared from development. So we’re not simply playing politics, as we have been accused of. We are supporting responsible land use policies – be it a wilderness area or a BMX track.
The plan to expand Mohawk Park to the northwest is an excellent idea, and is the most exciting part of your revised plan. The new location for the soccer complex is an excellent solution which will best meet the needs of the soccer community – a community I personally am part of.
Also, the plan to relocate the Tulsa Gun Club is another good idea. They have been an excellent neighbor to Oxley Nature Center over many years, but as they want to expand their facilities, they have an understandable desire to be out of the flood plain. This new area addresses that issue for them.
We encourage you to fully embrace the concept that others have put forward to turn this area, north of Lake Yahola, into the proposed Multi-Sport/Activity Complex, and expand Mohawk Park to include this area. Grouping active recreation facilities in this new area and placing passive recreation activities in the current park boundaries will ideally meet the needs and desires of all constituent groups. The proposed sports/Activity complex should be included in the master plan.
At the first meeting I had asked why the plan as presented did not locate the BMX and skateboarding in this new area north of Yahola and you stated it was due to a lack of funds. I would like to make a suggestion to address that problem.
In the proposed master plan one "improvement" is to rebuild all the roads in the park. We suggest that rather than spend money rebuilding the roads, those funds be put towards the purchase the additional land north of Yahola needed for the BMX track and skateboard park. If these two facilities are not located in the current boundaries of the park, then there is really no compelling reason to spend large sums of money completely rebuilding the roads. There is certainly some work needed on the roads, but the money spent on a complete rebuilding would be better spent on land acquisition.
We also strongly support the proposal made by Dick Sherry that the remaining undeveloped portions in the eastern areas Mohawk be classified as “natural areas” or "urban wilderness" and placed under the management of Oxley Nature Center. We urge you to work with the staff of Oxley to identify appropriate areas and be sure this is included in the final master plan.
Finally, I would like to address some of the specific proposals.
In the revised plan, the proposed location for the BMX track and skateboard park, the old rodeo arena just east of Lake Sherry, is much better than the original proposed locations. However, the same arguments for moving the soccer complex and the gun club to the area north of Yahola also apply to these facilities.
The negatives for locating the BMX track and the skateboard track are similar.
1 - They are located in a flood way. In this area Bird Creek floods very regularly, and the water simply does not rise but it flows quite rapidly. This would likely destroy the contours of a BMX track, which are made from mounds of dirt. And the skateboard park facilities would likely be damaged, if not also washed away. After each flood event, extensive, and costly, repairs would be needed. Where would the funds for this come from? And how long would these facilities then be unavailable? It simply makes no sense to build such facilities in a bottomland flood plain. The area north of Yahola is not in the flood plain.
2 - Accessibility is another issue. There is limited access to the proposed area, being located deep within the Park. And they are located away from the picnic and playground areas that do exist in Mohawk. If skateboarding and BMX were north of Yahola, they would be much more easily accessible and visible. If this area were developed as an extension of Mohawk, appropriate picnic and playground facilities could be included in this area, so parents could bring the family to these area, and be able to have a teenager skateboarding while their younger children play on a swing.
3 - Parking will be a problem. As we have learned from the BMX participants, this is a growing sport, and it will even be in the next Olympics. They need an area that is not only accessible, but has sufficient parking to handle the crowds that will certainly be drawn to such a facility.
4 - Being a parent myself, I understand the need for readily available concessions near such facilities. I predict that if the area north of Yahola is developed with active recreation in mind Quik Trip, or a similar business, will construct a facility in this area. Building a Quik Trip inside the existing Mohawk Park certainly is not an option.
5 - The current 9:00 p.m. curfew in Mohawk Park will certainly be an issue, especially for the skateboarders.
6 - Security is another issue. The current proposed location is in a remote corner of the park. Building these facilities in the more open areas north of Yahola would greatly enhance security, as the facilities would be readily visible, discouraging inappropriate activities.
Again, thank you for making the effort to listen to everyone with an interest in Mohawk and developing a plan that best meets the need for future generations of Tulsans.
John Kennington President Tulsa Audubon Society