The Great Lawn is at the center of the new park, retaining a popular feature of the existing Blair site. A desire for an open lawn area was repeatedly mentioned in public comments, both in meetings and on the project website. This large space will be multifunctional and highly flexible: a spot for picnics, Frisbee, causal soccer or ball throwing, sunbathing, reading, relaxing, playing capture the flag or just hanging out.
In order to create a park with a broad diversity of landscape experience, it is important that the four existing properties be experienced as a continuous space, rather than segmented parcels. Currently, Riverside Drive divides the site in half, creating a physical barrier between the Blair property, the river and an extensive trail system. The Great Lawn, which will extend over Riverside Drive via a land bridge, will connect the Blair Property to the riverfront with a generous landscape space that brings people together. This provides the heart of the new park and a recreational connection between the City and the regional riverfront system.
The Pond is a major nexus of park activity that brings the excitement and tranquility of water into the main heart of the park, creating a more diverse landscape experience and program. The Pond will be fed by both groundwater and runoff from Swan Creek, which is to the north of the park site. In order to provide the highest possible water quality, a new wetland system will be used to filter out pollutants from stormwater runoff before the water is released into the pond.
The Pond provides multiple opportunities for recreation, including boating, fishing and wildlife habitat observation. All of the major program elements in the north portion of the park, including the Lodge, the Boat House, the Great Lawn, the Adventure Playground and Mist Mountain, border the pond.
A playground is a place to have fun, but also to learn and to grow. The Adventure Playground will be a destination for children and parents from miles around, offering a special outdoor environment where everything has been designed specifically with the intention of engaging the imagination and the body. The playground will be truly multigenerational, providing interest for adults as well as children, and it will have elements to engage children at various developmental levels, and with different types of abilities.
Multiple centers of activity will be connected along a play circuit, where each play environment is encountered as something of a surprise. The Adventure Playground will offer a broad range of play elements that are integrated into a distinctive landscape environment, including elevated walks, slides, landforms, climbing features, monkey bars, play equipment, play gardens, a sand lot, water areas and open lawns. The adventure of the natural world itself will be one of the most important narratives within the playground. Interaction with plants will be encouraged and a robust understory will be provided at a child’s eye level to highlight aspects of growth and seasonal change.
The Adventure Playground will be located in close proximity to large existing shade trees in order to ensure that children can play safely and comfortably, despite the high summer heat. Similarly, elements that ensure caregiver comfort, including shade, generous seating, easy access to parking and restrooms, are integrated into the design.
The Lodge is an extroverted building that anchors various park activities by offering amenities such as restrooms, cafes, changing cabanas, educational activity rooms, fireplaces and indoor lounge spaces. It will be primarily glass and stone, giving a natural and open feel. Through a combination of green roofs, adjacent plantings and site grading, the Lodge will feel fully integrated into the park setting.
Lodge visitors arriving by car can be dropped off at the porte-cochere, which will lead into a reception space, called the Parlor, that offers orientation and information. The Great Room at the center of the Lodge will provide a large gathering space for public and private functions and is the center of rainy day and cold weather activities, offering views in the landscape, as well as a large fireplace. A glassed-in Solarium will bridge between the Great Room and a knoll to the north. A grand staircase connects the upper floor Parlor to the Lower Level, which includes sky-lit restrooms, offices, a flexible project room, a snack bar and storage for various park activities and programs. A series of stone terraces with canopy trees immediately adjacent to the Lodge offers outdoor seating options while providing shade from the hot summer sun.
The heat that Tulsa experiences in the summertime has the potential to keep people indoors, rather than out and about. The Mist Mountain is one of many elements within the park that has been designed specifically to provide an exciting and active way to beat the heat. In the same way that a family might spend a day at the beach, this area of the park, which is adjacent to the Lodge and to picnic tables, is a place to spend a long afternoon, taking intervals of refreshment in between visits to the various water features, including a spray area, mist area, tunnels, dams and streams, a water lab and the water plaza.
Proximity to the Lodge provides access to clothes changing areas, restrooms and food and drink concessions, making it easy and comfortable to transition from wet activities to dry ones, thus further extending a family’s day in the park. During the winter, when the water is shut off, the Mist Mountain will remain as an interesting landscape in its own right, featuring stone and other natural materials, as well as a visually engaging palette of plants.
A diverse range of ages and interests will be drawn to the multi-generational programming offered within the Boathouse, a mixture of social and educational spaces with a contemporary take on the traditional boathouse at its base. The uppermost level of the building will offer amazing views of the River and Downtown form an enclosed restaurant and outdoor terrace, an outdoor screened “porch” that also acts as an observation platform.
Both the Nature Center and the Cabinet of Curiosities multifunctional display space reside in the Middle Level of the Boathouse and act as educational spaces for all ages as well as social gathering spaces. The Boat/Craft House is down by the Pond, with kayak storage, a dock and workshop space for boat repair, classes, etc.
The Boathouse will be integrated into the landscape with respect to program, experience and function. The exterior will be a combination of glass, wood and stone veneer that is quarried locally. In general, locally extracted and manufactured construction materials will be used to the degree possible, as well as those with high recycled content or rapidly renewable and FSC certified wood. Light colored, high albedo pavements will be used to reduce heat absorption and further mitigate heat island effect, as well as durable materials that can withstand temperature fluctuations and winter conditions. The thermal performance of the building envelope will be increased with more insulated materials and glass, and energy use will further be reduced through daylight and occupant sensor lighting controls.
Swing Hill is set at the highest point of the entire park site, with about 46 feet of elevation above the pond and river levels. From this vantage point, the entire park can be viewed, as well as downtown Tulsa, and views up and down river. Swing Hill is an important part of a larger play network within the park that provides different venues for fun that are integrated into the overall landscape.
Swing Hill is arranged as a circuit of interesting play opportunities that frame a central lawn area, which is itself an offshoot of the Great Lawn. This combination of play and relaxation opportunities, coupled with the outstanding views from this location, has the potential to attract users of many different ages throughout the day for picnics and socializing. It is a highly accessible area, with direct adjacency to the restaurant on the upper level of the Boathouse and connections to the Hilltop Passage to the south.
Spanning over the Midland Valley Trail Passage, the Garden Path Bridge facilitates park connections and eliminates potential conflicts between park-speed pedestrians and faster speeds of bikes and other recreational users along the Trail. Linking the higher elevations for the Sky Garden and Swing Hill, the Bridge will be a moment for looking down the small valley of the trail, out to the Riverfront, as well as building up to the drama of the Park’s high point at Swing Hill, from which much of downtown Tulsa is visible.
A generous land bridge will connect the Great Lawn to Lakeview Lawn with a continuous landscape space. Approaching up the slope from the Blair Pond, the Riverview Passage will have a boundless feeling created by the profile of the lawn read directly against the sky as well as the frame of trees on either side. Crossing over the bridge, distant views will be revealed and the experience will be one of immersion in the park and riverfront landscape. As an integrated piece of the landscape, there will be no sense of interruption related to passing over the roadway. On Riverside Drive below, the Riverview Passage will announce the presence of the park overhead, although the time it takes to pass under the land bridge in a car will be quite brief.
A generous landbridge will connect the Great Lawn to Lakeview Lawn with a continuous landscape space. Approaching up the slope from The Pond, the Riverview Passage will have a boundless feeling created by the profile of the lawn read directly against the sky as well as the frame of trees on either side. Crossing over the bridge, distant views will be revealed and the experience will be one of immersion in the park and riverfront landscape. As an integrated piece of landscape, there will be no sense of interruption related to passing over the roadway. On Riverside Drive below, the Riverview Passage will announce the presence of the park overhead, although the time it takes to pass under the landbridge in a car will be quite brief.
Built out into the Arkansas River, Lakeview Lawn creates a unique moment within the existing River Parks trail system, opening up a generous landscape space creating a gently sloped lawn that makes the water’s edge accessible. The new westward-facing lawn, which is connected to the higher elevations of the northern part of the park by means of a land bridge, will provide a great new gathering spot to watch 4th of July fireworks or enjoy the sunset.
Open to the frequently dramatic Oklahoma sky, the Sky Garden is envisioned as an intense horticultural moment of showy flowers and shrubs within the more open understory of the park landscape. Seasonal variety will be emphasized in the plant selection so that the entire calendar offers something special. The sky garden will feature distinctive pavements that are in keeping with the more intimate qualities of a garden space.
Gardening is a passion that is shared by all ages, from the very young to the very old; this hilltop will be a source of inspiration for the home gardener or a special place for those who love plants, but don’t have the time, inclination, space or budget to garden on a big scale. Community and volunteer participation will be encouraged in the upkeep and evolution of the garden. The Sky garden is accessible by car, with convenient parking nearby, or by crossing Riverside Drive along a new pedestrian bridge.
The main promenade of the Four Seasons Garden pays homage to the sublime natural rock formation in Tulsa’s Chandler Park. As part of a linked series of landscape spaces between the Sky Garden and Children’s Museum landscape, the Four Seasons Garden is an important element within a very rich and wide range of landscape types that can be experienced over a fairly short walk. The garden space will be framed by undulating walls of natural stone that also provide ample seating opportunities. In addition, it will create an instinctive environment that artfully celebrates the native landscape. The Four Seasons Garden will provide protection from the summer sun but will be open enough to feel safe and welcoming.
Active recreation and outdoor social space are vital for teenagers and young adults. One of the major community aspirations voiced during the public process was park programming that would engage older youths in welcoming integrated ways. The Skate Parks, which will offer a diverse range of terrain and skill elements, will be entered at the park grade, rather than being raised from the ground. As with all elements within the park, the Skate Park will be an integrated part of the landscape and circulation systems, sited in such a way to preserve the continuity of park experience by obscuring skating activity from the casual park user.
Well outfitted fields for a number of popular sports will be a major draw for the southern portion of the park, attracting both organized and casual players, as well as fans and spectators. The location of the fields along the riverfront will provide a spectacular backdrop for epic contests of sports skill. Easy access to parking, as well as outdoor cooking facilities, will also contribute to the popularity of the Sport Courts.
In addition to designated play areas, the park will include several play episodes that will be encountered as surprises, or follies, within the larger experience of the park. Set in a small stand of trees, with close proximity to the new lake, the Slide Vale will be an exciting and unique hill slide adventure, creating a reason to linger a little extra while in this shady spot that slopes down to Blair Pond.
The Midland Valley Trail connects Tulsa’s Central Business District with the riverfront, along the abandoned rail corridor once used by the Midland Railroad. The passage through the new park will preserve the direct flow of bicycles and pedestrians along the trail while also providing access to the slower pace of park trails and programs. Passing between Swing Hill and Sky Garden, under the Garden Path Bridge, the Midland Valley Trail Passage will provide a distinctive moment of landscape intensity before opening up to the water. Proposed improvements, including a separation of bicycle and foot traffic along the Zink Bridge, will further strengthen the role that the Midland Valley Trail plays as a regional recreational asset.
Traveling downslope from the Sky Garden to the riverfront, the stone amphitheater will be built of brown sandstone that is typical of the Tulsa region. Intended to give the illusion of a natural outcropping, the amphitheater will provide abundant informal seating at the river’s edge, and views to the sluiceway and dam, accessed via a continuous walkway that ends at the Rocky Beach.
Riverview Valley is a lawn valley that slopes gently down from the Riverfront Trail along the edge of the Skate Bowl, toward the water. The space will feel slightly protected, by virtue of the tree lines on either side and the concave slope of the land, which will add to the sense of drama related to the open vista and water access ahead, providing broad views to the lower face of the dam and the active waters of the river.
The Nature Walk will add another layer of interest to the park program with direct access to the natural environment of the Arkansas Riverfront. A path leading from the Skate Bowl winds itself down into the existing rocky landscape at the river’s edge. The Nature Walk is also easily accessible from the Children’s Museum, where kids can explore the Turtle Island landscape and then venture with parents and friends under Riverside Drive and down to the riverfront nature path. It will provide an excellent opportunity for further learning about fluvial landscapes.
Coming in Phase II.