In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has joined with the City of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority to plan a major tree-planting project along the Oklahoma River’s north shore.
Pending Oklahoma City Council approval on Sept. 25, the Community Foundation will fund and help coordinate a landscaping overhaul like no other in the river’s history. The scale is enormous, stretching three and a half miles between S Harvey Avenue and S Portland Avenue, transforming an empty stretch of treeless space into a linear park, full of shade, color and scenery.
Under the proposed plan, the Community Foundation will plant 1,000 trees ranging between 10 and 12-feet-tall along the cycling and pedestrian trail. Additional enhancements would include native grasses and wildflowers to create managed, natural areas that are complete with erosion control and seating along the way.
Installation is planned to begin in late October or November, and work would continue through March, said Brian Dougherty, the Community Foundation’s director of parks and public spaces. Once trees are planted, the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department would operate an irrigation system that uses water from the river.
The project is part of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration, which begins in 2019. Once complete, the stretch would be named the Oklahoma City Community Foundation River Trail.
John E. Kirkpatrick founded the Oklahoma City Community Foundation in 1969, connecting many generous donors with hard-working charitable organizations to create a greater community. Oklahoma City Community Foundation President Nancy B. Anthony said the organization has been helping to make a difference for half a century, connecting donors to charitable projects throughout central Oklahoma.
“This project is a great example of how we can help donors make a greater impact on the community with their charitable gifts,” she said.
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation has been working to improve public lands throughout central Oklahoma for a number of years. Through its Margaret Annis Boys Trust and Parks & Public Space Initiative, the Community Foundation has awarded nearly $3.5 million to fund hundreds of beautification projects at schools, neighborhoods and public parks in central Oklahoma.
“When we look at this project on the river, we’re not just looking at a five or 10-year impact. We want a sustainable impact that will continue to be performing 50 years from now,” said Dougherty, who has spent 40 years as a horticulturist and landscape architect in Oklahoma City.
After recognizing a need to enhance the western half of the trail with natural shade, the Community Foundation proposed the project to the city and to the Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, Dougherty said. Since February, he has been working with the city’s parks department to develop plans, and city council approval on Sept. 25 will be the final step.
“Once again, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has stepped up to make our park system better, creating shade glades for both aesthetics as well as cooling places for trail users,” said Doug Kupper, director of the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department.
The trail project will accomplish a number of objectives set forth by Oklahoma City’s comprehensive plan, “planokc,” as well as the Oklahoma City Parks Master Plan. In addition to expanding trail usage by increasing shade with a tree canopy, the project will help connect Oklahoma City’s trail system and provide a transition from the western half of the trail to Scissortail Park and the Boathouse District.
“This project is a prototype,” said Dougherty, who’s been on the Community Foundation’s staff for 20 years. “Once complete, we’ll look for other landscaping enhancement opportunities along Oklahoma City’s 100 miles of trails and throughout the parks system.”