A riverwalk promenade proposal: lower Elm Creek

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So we've been told that the Arkansas River is far too wide to make for an intimate river walk setting. Anyone who has been to the San Antonio River Walk knows there's something to this. (On the other hand, Riverwalk Crossing in Jenks seems to be doing fine with development on one side of the river only. Ditto for your typical seaside boardwalk.) Bing Thom says you need to build the $600 million islands in the river so it'll be close enough to wave at someone on the opposite shore.

Is there another way to create a narrower water feature? Perhaps using tributaries of the Arkansas?

About a month ago (I've been meaning to get this posted), John Neas was kind enough to send me a concept drawing from 1991. I had heard about this, but had never seen it. There's a creek that was long ago buried and routed through storm sewers. It's called Elm Creek, and it flows, mostly underground, from Kendall-Whittier, through Central Park (6th & Peoria), south through Gunboat Park (11th to 13th, Elgin to Frankfort), to 15th & Boston, along Baltimore Ave, along the western edge of Veterans' Park, emptying into the river under the 21st Street bridge. The stretch from Central Park to Veterans' Park consists of an 84" arch tunnel.

This plan, shown in the picture above (click on it to download a higher res version in PDF format), would have brought the creek back to the surface from about 16th & Baltimore to Riverside Drive. Disregard the buildings and the street closings, and just focus on where the creek is relative to the park, the 18th & Boston district (considerably more active now than it was in 1991), and the river. It would make for an interesting connection between 18th & Boston and River Parks, providing a back door to businesses along Boston and opening the possibility for new businesses in place of the parking lot on the west side of Baltimore. Obviously the idea can be tweaked to fit the positive things that are already happening in the neighborhood.

The idea of bringing a creek to the surface as a promenade and neighborhood focal point is an important part of the Pearl District plan, which would open Elm Creek up as a canal along 7th Street to connect the new lake at Central Park with a proposed stormwater detention facility further east.

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» Arkansas River retrospective from BatesLine

Over the last 13 years, I've written quite a bit about the Arkansas River and proposals for damming and remodeling it, and about what Tulsans really are seeking when they ask for water in the river. Recently I resurrected several of my Urban Tulsa Wee... Read More


That runs right behind Doubleshot Coffee company.

That's interesting, Michael. Is there data for the volume of water that goes through Elm creek?
I mean, is Elm Creek one of those creeks that rarely has water in it, or is it generally running water all the time?
If it had enough water, I would happily canoe from 18th and Boston to Riverside.

Bob said:

A very sound idea. Infinitely do-able.

However, its probable modest cost defeats the purpose of the Channels Promoters:

Namely, BURN another $600 million (at LEAST!) in taxpayers money to fund the greedy needs of the REAL promoters of this deal:

A small, pre-selected group of architects, engineers, construction companies, PR firms, bond underwriters and attorneys who would gross HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of DOLLARS in new tax expenditures to line their pocket for the next several years, all the while using a slick, high-name recognition front man to shill for their nefarious plans.

Steve said:

This is an interesting idea!

Personally, I like the Channels project, but we need to TALK about ALL these ideas! The public needs to be INVOLVED. The Channels people still have some work to do to build up people's trust.

But after Tulsa TALKS about all this, we need to DO SOMETHING. Last week an analysis showed the Channels would have a $35 billion economic impact over 20 years. Most of this would come from keeping and attracting young educated people, which our economy depends on.

Let's discuss all these options. But then let's DO something. Tulsa's future depends on it.

The last time we were told we had to DO SOMETHING, we voted for a $125 million arena, which has turned into a $200 million arena, which, we were told, would bring the concerts that would help us attract and retain the very kinds of young educated people you are talking about.

Steve, is the problem one of substance or one of marketing? I'm inclined to believe it's a marketing problem. I know for a fact that there are fun and interesting places all over town where young adults can be entertained, can meet and mingle. There's a great independent coffee house scene here, where you can always find and join an interesting conversation, and places where you can hear original music. I'm wondering how old you are, Steve, because I find that people about my age remember the mid-'80s, when there wasn't a lot going on around Tulsa, and they assume that things haven't changed.

Has TSI actually surveyed young people here in Tulsa to learn what goes into their decision to stay or leave? If so, when will we get to see all the details of their research? Perhaps we can find more cost-effective ways to keep and bring bright young people to Tulsa, rather than gambling $600 million on an idea that won't pay off for a decade or so, if ever.

For a start, I've always thought the city should track local high school graduates who go on to college, staying in touch with them on a regular basis. Maybe a monthly e-mail newsletter to remind them of what they're missing back home and to educate them about local job opportunities. Local employers could use the database to connect with prospective employees who might come back to Tulsa if they knew of good job prospects.

When I graduated from MIT, I very much wanted to come back to Tulsa, but Tulsa companies didn't bother recruiting up there. I moved back anyway, without a job, to be close to family and my girlfriend. The job I found was for a company and in an industry with a long history in Tulsa (Burtek, a flight simulation company founded in the 1930s), but in all my years growing up here I had never heard of it.

For someone willing, but not necessarily determined, to come back home, knowing about good opportunities might be enough to make the difference.

Twatch said:

Amen!!!!! I recall like it was yesterday, the answer given to Chris Medlock's enquiries concerning Vision 2025, we have to do something NOW just TRUST US. TRUST can no longer be part of the equation; without hard facts and sober, credible players the answer is NO!!!!! Come back when your head is out of the clouds and you have 80% of the funding sitting in escrow and then it might be possible to have a serious conversation.

Jason Miller said:

I believe the proposal described above makes a lot of sense. Now, we just need more of them!
The proposal above describes something imaginative and doable and I absolutely love the concept.
It's not about the amount of money we will spend, its about what we are spending the on. What if a number of projects, roughly this size, were sprinkled throughout the proposed development areas of the city?

I'm sure the Channels, if built, will be a very nice destination. I'm just thinking destinations beats destination any day. Especially if the ideas put forth are as innovative as this lower Elm Creek idea.

RecycleMichael said:

You need to get a copy of the Elm Creek Master Drainage Plan from the stormwater section of the City of Tulsa Publics Works Department. I believe it was completed about twenty years ago.

It shows the complete basin and has the elevation info you need.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 27, 2006 5:32 PM.

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