Tulsa residents and city officials will come together this weekend to break ground on the construction of new amenities at B.C. Franklin Park.
After years of debate among citizens and city officials over what new amenities should be put in the park, a plan is in place and construction is set to begin.
The groundbreaking is 1 p.m. Saturday at the park, 1818 E. Virgin St.
“I think this would be a good example of cooperation between the community of north Tulsa and the city of Tulsa,” said Jerod J. Widemon, president of the Joe Louis Neighborhood Association.
The association was created in part to work on the park project, Widemon said. The group was assisted by Vanessa Hall-Harper, who also organized neighborhood residents to work on the park project.
That meant showing up to neighborhood meetings, taking a bus tour of other city parks and attending City Council meetings.
“That was one of my goals,” Hall-Harper said, “to show the community how the process is supposed to work, with representation and being engaged and asking those questions to make sure we had the information to make informed decisions, rather than having decisions made for us.”
It worked. Just three years after six north Tulsa residents filed a lawsuit to halt the city’s plan to demolish the park’s recreation center, the animosity and distrust that filled the air seems to have dissipated.
“I am very excited about it,” Parks Director Lucy Dolman said of the ground-breaking. “We have been working on this a long time. It is nice to see things moving forward.”
The city has spent the last several years demolishing dilapidated pools and recreation centers and replacing them with self-directed activities such as walking trails and water playgrounds at parks across the city.
Officials say the city does not have the funding to repair, maintain and operate many of its recreation centers and pools.
That didn’t go over well with some north Tulsa residents, who argued vehemently to keep the recreation center and pool at B.C. Franklin’s park.
But the recreation center has been removed, and the pool is going away, too.
Duane Midget, the city’s director of Community Development and Transportation, said all of this became more palatable for residents once they understood the city’s financial limitations.
Working together in a series of public and private meetings, area residents — with assistance from the city — cobbled together a wish list of new amenities for the park. They did so with the clear understanding that the city had only $800,000 to spend on the project.
“Once they understood what we were able to do we were able to move forward,” Midget said. “We look forward to continuing this effort not only in north Tulsa, particularly in the African-American community, but throughout the city where we can work in partnership with area residents to make their quality of life better.”
So what new amenities are being built at B.C. Franklin? A Black Wall Street-themed playground, an adult outdoor fitness center, benches, shelters with tables, barbecue grills, a bike rack, picnic tables, a drinking fountain, and trail and parking lot improvements.
The only feature that will remain from the current park is the playground on the south side of the property.
The project is expected to be completed in 2016.