River revue

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The big story I've been working on is finally in print. This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly cover story is the epic tale of a century -- yes, a century -- of Tulsa's plans to do something interesting with the Arkansas River.

This story was a blast to research. UTW's Holly Wall and Siara Jacobs rounded up copies of articles and documents from the 1968 and 1976 plans from the very helpful folks at the River Parks Authority. I spent hours paging through Central Library's "vertical files" and repository of old planning documents. I had far more material than I could use. I was helped immensely by a conversation with architect Rex Ball, whose firm developed the 1968 River Lakes Park plan, and by my long acquaintance with Jim Hewgley III, who was Streets Commissioner when the Zink Lake low-water dam was built by Mayor Jim Inhofe.


It's my intention to scan and upload much of the research material and to provide some sort of bibliography to help anyone else who might want to do further research.

In the story I mention a river concept presented very briefly in a 1959 document called A Plan for Central Tulsa:

A page of that study was devoted to "The Marina," a concept for the river between 11th and 21st Streets. The accompanying illustration showed an artificial lagoon for boats near 15th and Riverside, a floating restaurant and boat club just to the south, a "picnic island" accessible by pedestrian bridge just to the north, and a larger island, accessible only by boat, where the west bank used to be.

Yes, used to be. The drawing showed the river almost twice as wide as its existing width at the 21st Street bridge, backed up by a dam at some unspecified location downstream, with the new shoreline just below the west bank levee. The resemblance to last year's "The Channels" plan is uncanny.

I took a photograph of the illustration so you can see for yourself. It's not as sharp as I'd like, but I think you can make it out. Click on the image to see it in its original size.

(Notice that in 1959, the location of the Inner Dispersal Loop, seen along the top of the diagram, has already been determined, although it wouldn't be completed until nearly 25 years later.)

My column this week is also about Tulsa history:

Oklahoma's centennial year ought to be a year when all Oklahomans -- natives and newcomers alike -- encounter our state's history in a way that engages our imaginations. While every year is a good year to study Oklahoma history, this is a year that ought to be hallowed to that purpose, a year for remembering where we came from and how we got to where we are today.

The June unearthing of the buried Belvedere fulfills that purpose quite well. I propose extending that glimpse back 50 years with the Tulsa 1957 project, which I launched here a while back and explain in detail in the column. I also mention a couple of websites which are helping to capture everyday life in Tulsa as it was. (But I neglected to mention Jack Frank's wonderful Tulsa Films series, which uses TV footage and home movies to bring decades past back to life.)

Also this week UTW gives a rave review to the source of the coffee and quesadillas that helped fuel my 6,000-word feature story. Katharine Kelly gives the Coffee House on Cherry Street five stars each for food, atmosphere, and service.

RELATED: A pretty thorough outline history of the Arkansas River in the Tulsa area.

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Paul Tay said:

Ya think some carpet-baggin' GENIUS Chinaman took a bunch of equally GENIUS rocket scientists scheming around a Maple Ridge kitchen table on a slow, leaky boat back to Shanghai? Naaaaaaaaaaaah.

If I were part of that kitchen cabinet, I'd sue for a refund on the ticket. But, then again, would I really want like the WHOLE world to get into my business or should I just tuck tail, take a hint from Mr. Miller, and hide out on some nice Virgin Island like St. Croix?

Christie Breedlove said:

I used these 1959 maps in Mr. Hale's science class at Will Rogers High School in 1985. At the time I found it fascinating that the incompleted Mingo Valley Expressway (highway 169), and what would later be call the Creek Turnpike, were dotted lines indicating their proposal when the 1959 maps were drawn.

Years later in the 90s when the people who had built their nice homes in the 91st & Memorial-Sheridan area were complaining about the building of the Creek Pike I just shook my head in amazement that no one ever advised them of the highway planned over 30 years before they broke ground.

Bob said:

Really a very thorough and well-written, well-researched article in UTW.

What your research may have found but not yet commented on in this edition but maybe we'll find out in a follow-up article is just WHO were the favors-trading officials and businessmen that were complicit in packaging and promoting again and again a big river development deal funded OF COURSE by a new tax?

Is it the Tulsa World which never met a tax that they didn't like, and their associates from the Founder Families with large financial investments downtown?

Or, is it the construction companies owned by the founder families like the Flints and Rooneys, who are never out-front as the promoters but always support both financially and in many other ways, any plan to separate the tax-payer from more and more of their hard-earned money?

The local power establishment has a coven of connected cronies in our city and county government offices, allied with selected local bond underwriters, accountants, attorneys, architect and engineering firms, construction companies, and regulated utilities that they can count on for financial support, "volunteers", and local mass media AgitProp constantly agitating to feed their greed with OUR money.

Please, identify who are the Puppet Masters pulling the strings again and again?

W. Author Profile Page said:

I'm sure Mr. Bates is going to get some much-deserved rest instead of sating the desires of conspiracy theorists, paranoids, friendly bears and the like.

G Webster Wormleigh said:

Another interesting story is how the citizens of the Midtown area thwarted the original plan to carve a Riverside Expressway that was to be routed through Maple Ridge, across the Lee School playground and into the Inner Dispersal Loop. It would have meant the razing of dozens of homes along South Cincinnati, and there would have been no biking or running and walking through this scenic area.

Twatch said:

W. should sit in on the actual meetings where the "Operatives" are planning implementation
of the things he refuses to recognize. W. should hear how they speak of the "Denial Strategy" and how much longer they should continue before going Public. I DO know what I am talking about.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 31, 2007 11:38 PM.

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