Monday, March 30, 2015

No parking signs? $60.00 fines?!?!?

Each weekend, Turkey Mountain is packed with hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, geocachers, and families who are out to enjoy nature. This is Tulsa's gem, a true urban wilderness--something so few cities have. The lower parking lot fills up fast. People then resort to parking where ever they can--alongside the road on 67th and 68th Streets (in my neighborhood) and alongside Elwood Ave and 61st Street. Just recently, the old upper parking lot has been re-opened, which adds about 30 parking spaces. This is a blessing, but 30 extra spots hardly makes a dent in the parking situation. A recent survey of weekend trail users counted over 2,700 people in one day. I personally have counted over 250 cars in the lower parking lot and parked roadside.

Now the City of Tulsa has installed 13 NO PARKING signs along both Elwood and 61st Street. Park here, and you'll get a $60.00 parking ticket!

Now before anyone jumps up to inform me that roadside parking is a hazard--I agree that a parked car with the two tires ON the roadway is dangerous, and parking right at the curve at the top of the hill is asking for a collision from a speeding vehicle.

But where there IS a wide shoulder, it is ridiculous to prohibit parking. In this one stretch on the south side of the road, there is room for 20-25 parked cars which could be safely off the road.

The upper parking lot is not a permanent solution to the parking problems. Parking in the adjoining neighborhoods is not well received by a few of the residents. I live on 68th Street, and I have no problem with cars parked in front of my house, but a couple of neighbors have put concrete blocks along the road to keep people from parking in front of their house.

So what IS a good solution? Expanding the lower parking lot? I personally would rather not see even more asphalt there. The grassy area between the lot and the large pavilion should stay there, in my opinion. Expand the upper parking lot--maybe a better alternative.

Another idea is opening the gravel lot accessible from 71st Street. This gate is usually locked. But if it were opened just on the weekends, it would open up around 100 more parking spaces, and this could be done with virtually zero cost.

I find it ironic that there is a posted $100.00 fine for dumping (which is NEVER enforced) and $60.00 for roadside parking, which will rack up some major $$$ for the city.

I appeal to RiverParks and the City of Tulsa to study this issue and fix this problem.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

More broken glass on the trailz!!!

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who litter the trails, and especially broken glass. Just a month ago, on the cleanup day, we picked up LOTS of broken glass, and today in the same spot, there was more more broken glass! :-/  Why would ANYONE break glass on our beautiful trailz?
Maybe it happens like this....A couple punk kids have sat on their asses all day playing X-Box and one says, "Dude! What are you doing Saturday night?"

"I dunno, what'd you wanna do?"

"I know. Let’s go up to Turkey Mountain and break some glass. I have a whole crapload of empty Keystone Light bottles in my old man's garage."

"Hell yeah man. That'd be bitchin, dude!"

But this glass actually looked really old, like maybe it had been here for quite a while. Maybe the rains had washed the dirt away and this glass was re-emerging after being buried for many years. 

Maybe the conversation was more like this....A few country boys were sitting around and one says, "Say, Eli, what dost thou have planned for this Sabbath day afternoon?"

"I am not certain, Jebediah. Pray tell what dost thou want to do?"

"I know....let us gather together some fruit jars from Brother Thaddeus' barn and carry them hence to the hill that rises from the west bank of the Arkansas. From there, we will tote them up the hill and cast them upon the stones in the forest."

"I do not know if my Pa will approve of this activity, Brother Jebediah. I have my chores to attend to."

"I will come and help you finish with milking, and we can depart after we are through."

"Then I will go with thee."

"That'd be bitchin, dude!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Three runs in three counties in one day.

While a lot of my friends were in Kansas taking on one of the easiest 100 mile races out there, I was home. But not at home sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I was asked to lead a group hike on Turkey Mountain. The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition sponsors group hikes and walks periodically, and this morning we had 8 in our group. We took a modified Yellow Trail for our route, and some of the group had their first taste of trailz, while some went much further into the deep woods than they had ventured before.

After that, I headed west to Lake McMurtry. Part of the north trailz for our upcoming race had been closed, making the 25K loop 1.1 miles short. Ignoring that would turn the 50K into a 46.5 K, which wold result in come convoluted PRs. But with the help of Theron Wolford, a new route has been established which pretty well fixes this issue. A bit of extra course marking, and a bonus aid station at a crucial turnaround will make the race even better.

After that, I went to check on a job SW of Mannford, which was right on my way home. I had actually been in this area a couple of times in recent days and had taken pictures of a small but very beautiful lake. I could JUST SMELL trailz here, and took a few minutes to check it out
Near the dam to the north, I saw these bluffs, and was itching to explore.

Zooming in, it looks like there was a small cave here--just big enough for a bobcat. 

Looking south, the small lake. It was a bit on the muddy side due to recent rains. I could hear what sounded like rushing water below the dam, so I hopped the guard rail and tromped down a brier covered embankment.

What a nice surprise awaited me at the bottom. The music of the double waterfall was amazing. I actually drank the sound in for a few minutes before climbing back out.

Then on the other side, my trail sniffer proved to be accurate. This trail app reared to lead around the perimeter of the lake, but sadly led only  50 yards to a littered fishing spot. There was another small cave just big enough for a sleeping bag, or a mama mountain lion and some cubs.

I got back in my truck and headed home, but only made it about a half mile where my trail radar went off the charts again?!?!?

This jeep road led south into the woods, and was blocked at the entrance by a couple of huge boulders. There was not a NO TRESPASSING sign to be seen (not that it would have mattered) so I parked and went for an adventure.

This severely twisted tree caught my attention. The majority of the route was decorated bu leafless and dead looking trees. It looked like a tenderbox just waiting for a wild fire.

ABout 1/4 mile in, the trail stated a sharp decent, and the magical sound of running water again filled the air. The road came to a rocky water crossing, with this pool running into a narrow channel and cascading into a larger one and on to another small waterfall.

WOW! I was amazed to find this place. I hopped around trying to get to the best angle for pictures, By now, the sun was far in the west so I had to get downstream to get the sun at my back.

Scrambling down a drop-off, I got below the falls and tried to get a panorama pic. It just does not do this area justice. We'll see if a video I took does any better.

Below the falls and pool, looking back east, This is about an eight foot waterfall, and puts out a playful roar. This water is probably plenty deep enough for a swim, but maybe not deep enough for diving. Somehow, I bet I will find out in the next few weeks.

Looking back west at the high bluffs and early evening sky. The creek meanders on eventually spilling into the lake I saw earlier. 

This is the jeep road heading on south. Looking at my map app, it appears this road goes another half mile and then turns east. But it also looks like a lesser road turns back west and crosses the creek again. Could be interesting. Another trip is in order.

Near the top of the climb out of the falls area. I came upon a couple of fallen trees, and I was running out of time, so I headed back.

Running into the sun. I will definitely come back here. I was met at the road by a dude in a pickup truck who asked if I was scouting for turkeys. He showed me some folded up piece of paper which I guess gave him authority to ask me that, but I told him I was just a trail runner and was taking pictures of the falls. He seemed fine with that, and drove on. When my time allows, I'll go back to check out what looks to be around 3-4 miles of trailz one way. Never stop exploring.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Snake Run stuff

The Snake Run seemed to slither in quietly this year, getting here a few weeks sooner than I wish. I felt like I was behind schedule, short on volunteers, and possibly a bit overwhelmed. I was up at 5:00 am, and by 6:00 am, it seemed unlikely that we would have the aid stations in place by race time. Mitch and I set up the TATUR arch in the cold predawn blackness. Shorty arrived right at 6:30, and I put her in change of setting up the tables for registration, and headed out to deliver aid station stuff on the course. One trip to the house, and I was greeted by Scott Moore who was there to help with whatever. I snagged him and we got the turnaround tent and tables set up, and the supplies delivered. 
By the time I got back to the start/finish, several more volunteers were there, and everything was moving along smoothly--with a good 30 minutes to spare. Maybe my stupor was just that--a sleep deprived under-decaffeinate stupor.
A Facebook friend Muki Meme and I chatted a bit before the race, She came from Wichita, and had signed up last year but was not able to make the trip due to an injury. She was gearing for a marathon this day, but slipped in a slick muddy patch, and badly stretched her hamstring and had to drop after a lap and a half. Still--it was good to meet a Facebook friend.

At 9:00 am sharp, we sent the 6-hour runners off. 36 signed up, and 34 started.. All 34 completed at least one lap.

The 3-Hour race was better attended, with 92 registered and 85 starters. The 3-hour race started promptly at 9:15.

The format of the race is not how fast you can run a certain distance, but how far you can run in a set amount of time--in this case, 3 or 6 hours. The race is run on the Snake Trail, which gets it's name because it winds and twists and turns, and might from an aerial view resemble a snake. (At least that's what we tell prospective runners who are iffy about signing up because of their morbid fear of snakes!)

The course is 3.75 mile loops, which are really modified out-and-backs. The trailz have a few rocks and roots, but is virtually flat with very little ascent and descent.

Runners hit the aid station on the course at one mile, 2.1 miles, 3.1 miles, and then they hit the start/finish at 3.75--and then do it all over again. We were blessed this year with awesome volunteers. Susan Melon Westmoreland, Bryan Carpenter, Geoff Simpson, and Justin Franklin  manned this station on the course. I heard a few reports of people hitting the aid station at mile 1, and then the other side of the station at 2.1 and were confused, thinking they were at a different aid spot, yet the workers were the same ones. Then they reversed directions and hit it again from the other side. It must have seemed like the  Twilight Zone. It's kind of fun to see delirious runners so perplexed.
The highlight of the out and back aid station and the start/finish were Dana's bacon chocolate chip cookies. Tammy Cryer thought so, and I swiped her picture. There were about 3 dozen cookies left after the race. They are almost gone now. I need to buy a new belt. Dana again stocked all the aid station kits, and ran the start/finish aid station. It would be super hard to put on this race without her.

When the runners had ran a few laps, and had more time but not enough to run 3.75 more miles, there was a half mile  short loop where runners could tack on some additional mileage. There was a bit of strategy here. Tackling a 3.75 mile loop, and finishing even a couple seconds past the end of the time period, and the whole lap would not count. But if you executed your last lap well, you might actually gain a bit more ground on a competitor doing the short loops. It's a gamble. Counting the short loops gets hectic. I was on short loop counting duty, and the new numbers were much more visible than in years past. That coupled with fewer runners than in years past made for flawless results.

The 3-Hour race winners: Katie Kramer Ochoa (left) won first, running 21.25 miles. Katie Whelan (center) was second, running 19.25 miles. Sharon James (right)  took third with 18.75 miles.

In the Men's race, Victor Brown (left) ran 25 miles, winning the first place trophy. James Hensel (center) also ran 25 miles but finished about 90 seconds behind Victor. Trace Heavener (right) ran 23.5 miles for third place.

The trophies--these intensely scary rattlesnakes. My taxidermist did a great job on them.

But there was still a race going on. The 6-hour runners ran until 3:00.

Did I mention that there were TWO aid stations? This year, a BANDIT aid station cropped up. Jason Bement and family were serving up real moonshine, home made bourbon, Fireball, Jack Daniels, homemade wine, several craft beers, lime-a-ritas, and some cheap beer, Not every runner stopped at the Bandit aid station, but those who did often stayed a while.

I'll have to say, the bourbon was the best I've ever had.

Some trail angels had preformed some trail maintenance in the past few days, making rock bridges over some of the boggy areas on the west side of the Snake Loop.

More than one person told me about the NEW Oklahoma rock. Thank you Michelle Bates for taking it's pic.

Candi Paulin (left)from Kansas was second until near the end of her last full lap, but she made a move and caught up about a mile to Eventual second place finisher Melena Mayes. Candi tacked on a couple more short loops, and almost scored another lap, but missed the buzzer for the last lap. She finished with 34.75 miles. A half mile behind her, Melena Mayes (center) nailed down 2nd place, Any Arnstrong (right) finished third with 31.5 miles.

Let's go right to left on this one. Travis Jennings (right) surprised me by running 35.25 miles and taking third place. Jbob Jones (center) ran a steady pace and pounded out 40 miles for second place. Chris McCkure ran like an antelope all day long, and stopped with 47 miles in 5 hours 57 minutes. His first place performance was also a huge course record!

This years shirts were a throwback to the first Snake Run in 2008. My sister-in-law Sharon Childress designed this. It's Dana's favorite shirt. The medal doubles as a bottle opener.

Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition friends Erin and Colon Tawney helped all day long, not even thinking about leaving. They helped pack things up, and were awesome. Also Laurie Biby, who spent her birthday weekend taking pictures for us was once again brilliant with her photography skills. Wes Rupell and Michelle Bates helped out at the start/finish too,  Mike Rives helped out too, but migrated out to the bandit aid station where he felt like he fit in better.

Mitch Drummond timed our race again this year, and did a great job. Brian Hoover showed up and selflessly volunteered his time helping Mitch and I with the timing. Thanks to all my awesome volunteers, ones who give up their day so their friends can have a good race. And congrats to all my friends who ran and had fun with us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

District Two Meeting. Subject: Turkey as we know it vs Simon

Jeannie Cue held a District Two forum this evening at Zarrow Library. The meeting, restricted to District Two residents, was well attended with over 40 folks packing the small conference room.
Picture by Scott More. (Sorry for the glare of my sunburned head in the pic. Cropping is not a sin.)
Dwayne Wilkerson from INCOG explained their  role in the preliminary work in a commercial project such as this, and seemed a little uncomfortable with the questions being passed his way. He mentioned that this property was discussed as being rezoned in 1974, but Kaye Price pointed out that that was for Low Impact development, which an outlet mall is definitely not. (Gotta love Kaye Price!) Wilkerson declined answering most of the questions from the audience, saying Clay Bird handled economic development and was not in attendance. 

A good deal of concussion was about the traffic. 81st Street at HWY 75 is a perfect example of what 61st Streets will be like. This intersection is just insane, gridlocked all weekend and at rush hour. 1000 cars squeezing under a two lane underpass. The mess at the mall could and will be worse. Widening the bridge and road in front of the mall hardly helps. Widening 61st Street and Elwood would seem an answer, but that carves a lot of our wilderness and trails away. Plus, 4-laning Elwood could be a 150 million dollar project, according to Jeannie Cue.

Clay Bird did arrive later and spent about 20 minutes imparting the virtues of  Simon Properties, saying that they are experts in their field and were "extremely sophisticated with their site selection", which turned my stomach. Quite a bit of his discussion was about Simon getting Tax increment financing or TIF, and Kaye Price took him to task. Kaye was a crusader for Tulsa Hills, and the TIF that Tulsa Hills received was crucial to the area being built. Tulsa Hills was an economic boon to the west side. But she hammered home the question--WHY would we want to give Simon a TIF for infrastructure improvements so Simon could pad their pockets. And why would we want to put more retail space here when we already HAD Tulsa Hills? The EAST SIDE of Tulsa needs an economic boost an outlet mall could provide--a good point in my way of thinking.

I do not know Clay Bird. He seems like a nice guy, but did way too much Simon cheer-leading for my tastes.

Lou Reynolds was next--a Tulsa attorney representing Simon Properties. He had several artists renditions of the proposed mall. Several of the pictures shown were much like the ones that have been circulating. 

Makes me wanna polish up my credit cards & go shopping--NOT!

Then he passed around some lovely pictures of the retaining wall Simon proposes.

Here's another picture. These are pictures that these savvy shoppers with dreams of endless bargains will see. They'll wonder why in the world us trail runners and mountain bikers are raising a stink.

Remember the picture Colin posted from the western leg of the Snake Trail? Here is what we'll get to see.

This is supposed to be the wall as viewed from about halfway down the pipeline trail. It's cute how road bikes are leisurely pedaling up what is a steep incline on a dirt road. And no helmets!! This is their idea of camouflage the wall. Perfectly spaced large trees near the top and hundreds of saplings in between whatever existing trees they decide to leave for us. Give it 40-50 years, and it'll look great. I'll be dead by then.

Get real. Here is what their retaining wall will look like.
Picture from Colin Tawney

Except it will be MUCH TALLER. Lou Reynolds described the wall as being 30 feet in height. At one point, I think he mentioned that a part of it might be 50 feet. I had my hand in the air for about 15 minutes, and was ignored. Eventually, Jeanie reminded Lou that there were people on the other side of the room, and he called on Russell and I. I asked him to at least be truthful as to how tall the wall was proposed to be. In a more detailed plan of the site, the bottom and top elevation of the wall was listed in several places around the east and north sides of the parking lot. 

I've circled one area where it clearly states the wall will be 70 feet tall. Reynolds first said he had not seen that, then said it would be terraced, and landscaped. I have blogged on this drawing before. I do not see how a 70' wall that tapers down to 50 feet--all within 200 feet of the Westside YMCA boundary will not be a visible eyesore to the kid's camp. Runoff water, litter control, light and noise pollution were never addressed. 

The Tulsa World published this story, and they were very sympathetic to those opposing the Turkey Mountain mall mess.