Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My letter to my city counselor

Dear Counselor Jeannie Cue,

We have met at a couple of meetings last summer/fall just after Simon Properties announced their intent on building an outlet mall at 61st/HWY 75. At both meetings, there were several Turkey Mountain trail users in attendance. I was greatly encouraged by your statements of how you loved and grew up visiting Turkey Mountain, and you referred to it as “our Central Park.” J Indeed there are very few cities in the US that have protected urban wilderness areas such as this.

It does seem like Simon Properties has been quietly moving toward constructing this mall and it greatly saddens me. I live in your district—532 W 68th St, and the influx of traffic since Tulsa Hills has went in has quadrupled. So many commuters from west of HWY 75 use 61st and Elwood to bypass all the stoplights on 71st near Tulsa Hills. I don’t blame them—it truly seems like these stoplights are not at all synchronized. When the intersection at 71/Elwood was “improved” with no left turn lane, there is a log-jam there every morning and evening. Commuters from the south needing to cross the 71st river bridge also bypass at Tulsa Hills, complicating matters by creating line of cars turning east of Elwood onto 71st.  Making left turns is slow going with only 2-3 cars turning per light cycle. Now, if the mall is built, I can see the traffic quadrupling again.

My objection to the Simon outlet mall is not unlike the trail runners/mountain bikers/hikers.

·         It is an encroachment to what is our park. No amount of “buffer zone” will hide the high rise buildings, light pollution, noise from the traffic, and litter.

·         I am deeply concerned that the traffic issues will lead to beautiful 61st Street and Elwood being widened to 4 lanes—6 lanes and added sidewalks and many more acres of the shrinking Tulsa Urban Wilderness will be lost.

·         Tulsa is interested in economic growth. Having recreational areas and green spaces is more attractive to young professionals and prospective industries than shopping centers. I am not at all against an outlet mall in Tulsa, even in west Tulsa—but not right next door to Tulsa’s best park

·         Another valid concern is the affect that construction of the mall would have on the West Side YMCA. Right now, the Y is a magical place—right off 1-44, yet seems so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. This summer camp has been a life changing experience for hundreds of children for over 50 years. With the sight of concrete buildings on the horizon, the noise and encroachment of an access road along HWY 75, the pollution of their ponds is a strong argument for locating the mall at another place.

Last Saturday at 3:30 pm, after my hike of Mooser Creek, I returned to my car. I was parked very near the “entrance” of the proposed mall. Counting my car, there were 19 vehicles parked there. I counted 29 more cars and SUVs parked on 61st right by the curve at the top of Elwood. Then I counted 92 (yes 92) cars parked alongside Elwood, and on 67th and 68th Street. (I live on 68th, and they were parked in front of my house and well beyond. J) I then drove the parking lot and counted 115 more cars on the lot and around 20 parked up on the grass. That’s 275 cars—with maybe an average of two people per car. 550 folks were enjoying our Urban Wilderness at that very moment—3:30 pm. I bet there were 1,500 trail users during the day Saturday, and Sunday was almost as busy. That’s maybe possibly as many as 3,000 people who oppose having an outlet mall at 61st Street/HWY 75.

I bet if 1,000 random Tulsans were surveyed, over 90% would favor having an outlet mall in our city. But if a follow-up question were on that survey—would you favor saving this plot of land for Tulsa’s Urban Wilderness and locating the mall on a more suitable site—90% would favor the alternate location. IS this a pipe dream? Could this even be possible to have a scenario where Tulsa gets the outlet mall, and Tulsa’s Urban Wilderness does not lose, but in fact gains? I would love to see the land SOUTH of 61st Street become park land—I am a dreamer, aren't I?

Jeannie, thank you for reading this. I truly appreciate all you do for our district.

Ken Childress
532 W 68th St
Tulsa, OK 74132

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