Tulsans Back Arkansas River Plan

A group of private donors, led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, announced today a $100 million gift to enhance a large portion of the 42 mile Arkansas River corridor in support of implementing the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) master river development plan.

The plan, which received public input over the last few years, would concentrate the water flow in the river through the creation of new dams at Sand Springs and Jenks, the reconstruction and raising of Zink Dam near 31st street and the narrowing of the waterway between the Zink and Jenks Dams. It would also begin the planning necessary for a future low water dam in the Bixby area.

The private support would be available if the community moves forward with the basic infrastructure associated with the plan.

“We believe this to be the largest, single private offer of assistance in the history of our City and perhaps any city in America,” said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor. “This is a monumental day for Tulsa area citizens as we take bold, new steps to preserve and enhance our greatest natural resource and develop recreational gathering places that we can all be proud of.”

Taylor thanked the Foundation for its vision and commended INCOG for countless hours of community input. The basics of the plan call for putting water in the river and allowing public access. Foundation Director Ken Levit said supporters are enthusiastic about the river’s potential.

“For as long as anyone can remember, Tulsans have expressed their desire for a true river development plan that allows families throughout the area to take full advantage of Tulsa area’s most significant geographic feature. We envision amenities such as new pedestrian crossings, a white-water wave park, a much-improved trail system, and world-class gathering spots to enable retail development,” said Levit. “We continue to work on the details of the Plan and anticipate a cost for public infrastructure of about $295 million, of which $18 million has already been included in prior tax and bond issues the voters have approved. The private sector would add to that total at least $100 million for river bank improvements such as parks, trails, wilderness areas, lighting, parking and restrooms.”

Backers of the plan have expressed an interest in a fall election that would ask Tulsa citizens to support river development.

County Commission Chairwoman Randi Miller was joined by Commissioners Fred Perry and John Smaligo in agreeing that the plan was sensible and ready for public discussion. “This plan includes the essential items that must be done to actually make river development, which has been talked about for so many years, actually happen.” The Commissioners also said this plan offers a strong basis for submission to the taxpayers so they can determine if they want to invest their money in this fashion.

The Arkansas River Master Plan was originally commissioned by INCOG, a consortium of regional governments in and around Tulsa.

“Our studies show the public wants and needs river development. This private gift challenges the public sector to sponsor the long-promised river development plan for all surrounding communities,” said Jerry Lasker, director of INCOG.

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