Places I like: Chicago Basin, Colorado

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You know how wild a place is going to be based on how difficult it is to get to. While not a foolproof axiom, it generally holds up.

And that describes Chicago Basin, Colorado, very well. You can either hike in from some 20 miles out or hop a train and get dropped off in the middle of nowhere to start your journey to this slice of alpine heaven.

It’s a lot different than most of Colorado. The state is pretty dry by nature, but the San Juans tend to accumulate more rain and snow than neighboring ranges. And compared to the rest of the San Juans, Chicago Basin gets even more. The end result is a place so lush, so green, that is practically drips with foliage.

At times, the clouds and mists obscure the real rock stars of the basin – its peaks. But invariably, these beauties refuse to remain veiled for very long. Four summits towering more than 14,000 feet crown the upper reaches of the basin and even more 13,000-foot peaks join the show. Like the wilderness itself, all these mountains are wild. No gentle, grassy slopes for these crags. Instead, you’re greeted by sheer cliffs, tall spires and rocky ramparts that create an imposing – and inspiring – skyline.

In some ways, it’s too bad you can see these scenes from the road. But like a lot of things in life, with great effort comes great rewards. You’re going to have to do more than take a long drive to see Chicago Basin. But if you’re willing and don’t mind the toil, you’re going to see real wilderness on its terms, and in its full glory.

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Bob Doucette

Fitness: Seven ways to take a rest day

Once a week, you need to kick back.

Once a week, you need to kick back.

When it comes to fitness, we live in a day where all we want is more. And to get more, we feel we need to do more.

This is somewhat true. If you never challenge yourself in the gym, on the track or on the saddle of your bike, you’ll probably stay right where you are, or worse, regress in your fitness. Growth is hard.

But do you know what is also hard? Knowing when to shut it down.

I’m thinking that this endless string of run streaks and burpee challenges is on the wane. Or at least I hope so. These things feed into the psyche that if you keep doing something all the time, you’re going to get some amazing breakthrough that’s going to explode your bench press, propel you to a new PR or help you get into those jeans that used to fit a few years and several donuts ago.

But here’s the truth: You need rest.

This goes beyond the need for adequate sleep, which is crucial when it comes to repairing your body and helping you grow. What I’m talking about is taking a rest day once a week.

For six days a week, train your brains out. But on one day, take a break for a whole 24 hours. Your body needs this time to be still and catch up on all the rebuilding it needs to do from that week of you killing it in your workouts.

So here are seven ways on how to take a rest day:

  1. Don’t lift weights. I’m quite serious about that. Just put down the bar and walk away. Don’t even darken the door of your gym.
  2. Don’t go run. Not even a light jog to shake out the soreness. Just leave the sneaks in the closet.
  3. Don’t jump on your bike. Or do laps at the pool. Or go to a fitness class. Just don’t.
  4. Do some foam rolling. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and can even be a bit painful. But it helps your body in the repair/rebuild process. We call this “active rest.”
  5. Do your corrective exercises. Whether it’s stretching or other passive forms of postural moves that help the body work out the kinks, go ahead and do these things. These are also good forms of active rest.
  6. If you feel the need to get outside and move, oblige yourself with a walk. Not a power walk or a strenuous hike, just a decent walk for a few blocks. That’s OK, and it’s good to get some fresh air. Just don’t let it turn into a workout. Keep it leisurely.
  7. Eat right. Stick to your nutrition plan on your rest day. Get your water in. Eat some protein with every meal. Just because you’re not working out doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need those crucial nutrients to build a stronger version of you.

How do you take your rest day? Any tips you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments.

Bob Doucette

Looking toward the 2014 Tulsa Run: It’s going to be a tougher course

I’m a little late on this one, but I figured it would be a good time to preview what the 2014 Tulsa Run course will look like.

There are changes, and they are significant. Some background…

The city is going through a major park development project on Riverside Drive between 21st Street and 35th Place. Much of the road is going to be rebuilt, which means a significant portion of the race’s traditional course is going to be torn up. So the flatter out-and-back format of years past is history this time.

Here’s a map of the new 15K course:

The 15K course for the 2014 Tulsa Run. (Tulsa Run image)

The 15K course for the 2014 Tulsa Run. (Tulsa Run image)

Now it’s a loop. I’ll make this short and sweet: As much as people groaned about the uphill stretch up Boston Avenue at the end of the race, they can expect more of that in this year’s event. Both 21st Street and 15th Street — prominent stretches in this year’s run — are pretty hilly. Much more so than in last year’s course.

Also, the return trip to downtown also has an uphill stretch from Riverside, and then the last piece north on Boston Avenue.

My advice: Train on hills, especially if you’re hunting a PR.

Now the good news: From an aesthetic point of view, this course has the looks of a gem. Running on the River Parks trails alongside Riverside Drive is scenic. Running on Riverside Drive, however, is not. But crossing the Arkansas River (twice) and going through Cherry Street and Brookside will make for a more interesting run, and possibly better in terms of spectator support.

I like the change, and aside from the added difficulty the course presents, I think most runners will, too. An added bonus: If you’re also training for November’s Route 66 Marathon or half marathon, the new Tulsa Run course will give you a nice sneak preview of what to expect on the marathon and half marathon.

The Tulsa Run is on Oct. 25 and registration is open.

Bob Doucette

Update on Turkey Mountain: Addressing the ‘private property’ argument

Private property? Yes. But its fate affects more than just developers and potential shoppers.

Private property? Yes. But its fate affects more than just developers and potential shoppers.

“But it’s private property. They can do with it what they want.”

That’s the argument I hear the most when talking about opposing the planned outlet mall on the west side of Turkey Mountain.

But that argument, as reasonable as it sounds to some, is far from airtight. I’ll get to that in a minute.

To recap: Mall developers/corporate behemoth Simon Properties announced in August that it was near to closing a deal on a patch of privately owned property at the northeast corner of 61st Street and U.S. 75 in southwest Tulsa. The parcel is one of many privately owned plots in the Turkey Mountain area, west of land already owned and maintained by the city of Tulsa’s River Parks Authority.

There are a lot of trails all over the west side of Turkey Mountain, including the 50-acre site for the proposed outlet mall. If the mall gets built, a minimum of 1.5 miles of trails and a whole lot of wild woodlands will get wiped out. This will squeeze wildlife that live in the forest, and construction of the needed infrastructure for a mall will certainly eat more woodland acreage in the form of road widening and other needed projects to handle the automobile traffic that would come with a large, busy shopping center.

Mountain bikers, runners and hikers have risen up in opposition of this plan, saying the mall should go somewhere else and to leave what is left of the forest alone.

Where it stands: The project is in its embryonic stages. The city of Tulsa has yet to receive any plans for the mall, and no requests for rezoning have been made.

And lastly, why the “private property” argument has some gaping holes: Simply put – and contrary to what many are saying – you can’t simply “do what you want” with property you own. At least not within the city limits.

Let me show you why.

Let’s say you own a nice one-acre plot in a growing, off-the-beaten-path subdivision that is interspersed with 3,000-square-foot homes and yet-to-be developed home sites inside a good school district. But then the developer gets a great deal from an investor, sells 20 of these plots, and then allows the investor to construct a 40-story office tower (with an adjoining parking garage) smack in the middle of your neighborhood.

Or maybe you live in an older, established neighborhood of Tudor-style brick homes, and a buyer snaps up 20 acres across the street, next door to your kids’ school, and opens up a commercial hog farm and processing plant.

Or let’s say you’re on a tony city block of stately brownstone row houses, and a private prison company plops a 200-cell lockup one block over.

The developers promise lots of jobs and increased revenues for the city.

In each case, we’re talking about developers buying land, and then with their new investment, doing what they please to make a buck. And yet, none of these situations would ever really happen, right?

Damn straight. And why is that? Because cities and towns have regulations on how property inside their boundaries can be used. That’s why zoning ordinances exist. It’s why we have planning commissions, which are in turn served by planning departments. It’s why those departments and commissions study proposed developments, hold public hearings (and allow ordinary citizens’ input) and make recommendations to city leaders.

It’s why fertilizer plants don’t operate in the middle of subdivisions, why strip clubs aren’t next door to schools. It’s the reason why we see residential areas separated from industrial parks, and why we don’t let people build in flood plains.

Outlined in red is where the outlet mall would go. But you can be guaranteed the impact of the mall would far exceed those boundaries.

Outlined in red is where the outlet mall would go. But you can be guaranteed the impact of the mall would far exceed those boundaries.

These are good things. As much as people decry government intrusion in private business dealings, these rules are in place so a community can function in a healthy, sustainable way. They are a reflection of community values.

I’m not so silly as to believe that an outlet mall is as outwardly outrageous as the fictitious scenarios I listed above. But I will make a case that leaving that 50-acre plot wild is far better than ripping the trees down and paving it over for the sake of yet another boxy shopping center.

As it exists, the acreage in question is grass, trees and underbrush. Part of it has been partially cleared. But it is still undeveloped, with the exception of several stretches of singletrack trail.

So let’s talk about those trails. People use them. They use them to get outside and get fit, whether that is on foot or on the seat of a bike. This is good. I’d go so far as to say it’s crucial.

Oklahoma has the seventh-highest obesity rate in the nation, according to a recent report from the Tulsa World newspaper. As reported by health writer Shannon Muchmore: At 32.5 percent, only West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana are worse. And Oklahoma’s problem is growing. Although the state was ranked No. 6 the previous year, the obesity rate that year was actually lower than it is now.

High obesity rates also mean higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. These lead to higher medical costs, greater household financial strain and higher insurance costs for all of us, regardless of how fit we are. We all pay more for our state’s poor health.

A wise public policy decision would be to encourage investment or maintenance of things that get people off their butts and active. Sometimes good economics is not measured in sales tax dollars collected, but rather money that is not spent on failing health.

An outlet mall won’t help here. A healthy trail system will.

On to the next point, and it goes straight into the heart of conservation.

We all need a place to live. For non-humans, wild places are home.

I was reading a piece from a publication called the Tulsa Voice, which interviewed a naturalist at the Oxley Nature Center, another small but well-preserved wild area near Tulsa. As reported by the Voice’s Molly Bullock:

“Eddie Reese, director of Oxley Nature Center, said the potential development would wipe out many smaller residents of the site, including hundreds of arthropod species, ornate turtles and three-toed box turtles, skinks, lizards and several species of snakes.

“ ‘All those things that live there now pretty much won’t be able to leave,’ he said. ‘They’re too small, too slow. So they’re not going to make it.’

“Flying squirrels, which occupy Oxley Nature Center and Mohawk Park, might also reside in the Turkey Mountain area, Reese said. Unlike the more common fox squirrel, flying squirrels are nocturnal, which makes them particularly vulnerable to development.

“ ‘The bulldozers will come in during the daytime and start pushing things around, preparing the ground for development,’ Reese said. ‘… [Flying squirrels will] be holed up in a hollow tree, and they will get pushed over.’

“Larger animals like foxes, coyotes and bobcats would be forced into territory already occupied by their counterparts. The reduced hunting and nesting area would also squeeze out Red Tailed Hawks, Screech Owls and other birds.

“ ‘[A habitat] can only get so small before some animals have to just leave the area completely,’ Reese said. ‘I don’t know how small that really is for them.’ ”

Reese went on to describe more consequences to local wildlife:

“ ‘I think sometimes people think that we don’t really need nature, because we’re separated from it,’ Reese said. ‘… What they forget is that everything is tied together, and when you start taking pieces of that puzzle out, the puzzle starts to fall apart.’ ”

“The connections are intricate and hard to overstate. For example, hummingbirds build their nests with silk from spider webs, Reese said.

“ ‘If you don’t have spiders … then hummingbirds won’t be making nests,’ he said. ‘They won’t be laying eggs, and before too long, we won’t have any hummingbirds. … Now, how many connections like that are there … that we don’t know about? How is a turtle important; what is it connected to? … How much can you afford to lose?’ ”

These are important points, as a lot of families go out to Turkey Mountain with their kids so they can see nature first-hand. How much encroachment will it take before that experience goes away? Can you put a price on what value such a thing has for a community?

So what does that boil down to? It’s pretty simple. What do you want your community to be? Do you want a say in how it’s developed? Because if you live in Tulsa, you have a say. Development and growth are natural progressions for any vibrant city, and no one is arguing that there isn’t room for an outlet mall in Tulsa.

But the question is how this specific piece of land is to be used. Is it better to leave it wild (and include that in a use plan that’s good for all parties involved), or do we allow it to be mowed down at the expense of trail users and existing wildlife? What levels of sacrifice are we willing to make for the purpose of making a buck?

At some point, Simon Properties – owners of malls in every U.S. state, including Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa –  will likely put forth a proposal to the Tulsa Planning Commission. Sometime after that, the commission will have a public meeting to discuss those plans. If this is important to you, contact Planning Commission members. If and when the outlet mall plan is discussed at a Planning Commission meeting, be there and let your voice be heard.

The property in question is private property. But how it’s managed or developed will have an impact on Tulsa, and for that reason, we all have a say in how that goes down. The rules that won’t allow a slaughterhouse to be built beyond your backyard fence are the same as those that will determine the fate of what happens at Turkey Mountain.

Bob Doucette

Colorado’s Mount Sniktau: A gateway to alpine hiking

Scenic Mount Sniktau's summit ridge.

Scenic Mount Sniktau’s summit ridge.

This one goes out to the people who need an altitude fix and need it fast.

Or those who are unsure about this whole alpine hiking thing but want to at least give it a try.

If you live in the Denver area or you are traveling there and have a little time to kill, let me introduce you to your new best friend: Mount Sniktau.

You might remember that thing I wrote about the road trip/train ride/rainy hike/mountain climbing thing in southwestern Colorado’s Chicago Basin. But before I stepped foot on the trail leading up to that little wilderness paradise, there was another ascent that was supposed to gear me up for the challenges to come.

My friend Matt and I were in Denver, but still a couple of days away from meeting up with our merry band of backpackers in Durango. Denver is a fine town, and the mile high city is substantially higher than my hometown. But you’re not going to acclimate for 14,000 feet by hanging out in a city 9,000 feet lower than that.

So the prescription was to find an alpine hike that was close to Denver, but one that we could get to in a passenger car with low clearance.

After looking at my options, I eventually settled on Sniktau. Mount Evans would have been a solid choice, too, but I’d kinda been there and done that the year before. Similar deal with Mount Bierstadt and Quandary Peak. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak? The road to the trailhead was too much for our car. Castle Peak was pretty far, and a longer day than we wanted.

But then there was Mount Sniktau, elevation 13,234 feet.

Midway up Sniktau's grassy slopes.

Midway up Sniktau’s grassy slopes.

Just past Idaho Springs with easy access from Interstate 70, this seemed to be the ticket. The route was short but high, giving us some flexibility on start times and hiking speed.

My only worry was that it would be lame.

The thing is Matt has been to some pretty awesome places. He hiked New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, a few years ago. Did the Maroon Bells loop. And last fall he hiked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. I might be easily amused, but I wasn’t so sure about Matt.

But he was also battling a bum ankle he’d sprained a couple of weeks earlier while burning up the trails at Turkey Mountain on a trail run.

That’s a lot of considerations going into what would be a big week in the Rockies.

Looking west toward Loveland Ski Area.

Looking west toward Loveland Ski Area.

Hiking it on a weekday was a good choice. The trail is popular, mostly because of its proximity to the Denver area and its relatively short length (3.5 miles round trip). I can only imagine how busy it would be on a weekend.

As you drive west on I-70, Sniktau is the first big mountain you see to your south. When I was less familiar with the area, I wondered if it was a 14er (maybe Grays Peak). I know better now, but that’s how big it looks compared to the surrounding mountains just before you hit the Eisenhower Tunnel. Those high, green, grassy slopes just seem to rise forever when you look at them from the road.

Eventually we wound our way up Loveland Pass, where a small parking lot is carved out at the top. A stone staircase leads up from there and took us to the trail that followed Sniktau’s steadily rising ridgeline.

The route takes a break before heading up to Point 13,152, a false summit on Mount Sniktau.

The route takes a break before heading up to Point 13,152, a false summit on Mount Sniktau.

A whole mix of people was out that day. A group of kids wearing way too much clothing. More seasoned hikers with their trekking poles and hydration packs. An old dude with a butterfly net.

The pass is near 12,000 feet, so the total elevation gain is not that much. But you pick up about 1,000 feet of it right off the bat. The trail is decent, though pretty sandy.

At the false summit and a rocky windbreak, looking toward Sniktau's true summit.

At the false summit and a rocky windbreak, looking toward Sniktau’s true summit.

Another thing about Sniktau: It’s windy. Breezes sweep over its ridgeline constantly, and they can get pretty strong at times. Higher up on the mountain, it’s no surprise that people had constructed a few windbreaks to take shelter from those gusts.

Hiking up the ridge, you don’t get to see the real summit until you top out on the false summit, Point 13,152. From here, you drop into a saddle, then begin the final ascent to the top. Somewhere just short of the  false summit, and then most of the way to the top the trail goes from sandy BBs to scree and talus. But the rocks are pretty solid, a relief to Matt, who was constantly minding that wonky ankle.

Torreys Peak as seen from Mount Sniktau.

Torreys Peak as seen from Mount Sniktau.

By the time we topped out, the winds died down. An older couple and their adult daughter were there, snapping pics and checking out the views and the marmots who were, in turn, watching us.

Sniktau gives you some pretty good views of nearby mountains – Torreys Peak is the closest “big” mountain in view, and Quandary Peak further away, to name a couple.

Matt hanging out near the summit, taking in the views.

Matt hanging out taking in the views, I-70 far below.

What we weren’t expecting: A C-130 darting between the peaks, having fun as only pilots can. We’re more accustomed to seeing planes of that size flying over the mountains, not flirting with mountaintops and ridgelines.

Clouds began to roll in, and it was time to go. Those sandy parts of the trail nailed me on the way down, causing a slip where I banged my hand pretty hard on the rocks and got a nice cut in the process. Hey, if that’s the worst thing that will happen, I’m fine with it. But it’s a good lesson – I was wearing worn-out running shoes instead of something more fit for hiking, so my trail grip wasn’t the best. I’ll know better than to be so casual next time.

What surprises me, though, is how often I see people heading up the mountain late, in the face of incoming bad weather. It was true again that day.

I was pleased at how scenic the hike actually was. Naturally, I assumed a peak so close to Denver and so heavily traveled would be less than inspiring. But that view of the summit from high on the ridge packs a lot of punch.

So go ahead. Bypass the busy 14ers. Get your elevation fix, get it fast, and savor it on Sniktau.

GETTING THERE: From Denver, take I-70 west past Idaho Springs, then exit south on U.S. 6 (the Loveland Pass exit) Drive to the top of the pass and park at the trailhead parking lot. The trailhead will be on your left as you park.

ABOUT THE ROUTE: From the parking lot, go up the staircase to the trail and continue hiking up the ridge to Point 13,152. The trail gets a little rougher from here, and earlier in the summer, there might be snow on the route. Continue hiking down the saddle and then up the final pitch to the top. The route is 3.5 miles round trip, with about 1,300 feet of elevation gain. Class 2 hiking.

EXTRA CREDIT: Many people cut their teeth on winter hiking on Sniktau. And for those who want give ski mountaineering a try often do it on Sniktau’s slopes, which is pretty convenient for skiers at nearby Loveland Ski Area. Lastly, you can link up Sniktau and nearby Grizzly Peak and Torreys Peak if you want a bigger day. And if you’re particularly stout of heart, the trail would make a great ridge run.

Bob Doucette

Why a less-than-stellar time can still be a good race

The look of a happy runner. Never mind where I finished. (Fleet Feet Tulsa photo)

The look of a happy runner. Never mind where I finished. (Fleet Feet Tulsa photo)

I’d bombed down the hill and picked up my speed for the last quarter-mile of my latest race, high-tailing it across the finish line with an impressive kick I hadn’t had in a competition in quite some time. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

The race, the 5-mile Escape From Turkey Mountain trail run, was on my home turf in Tulsa. It was overcast and unseasonably cool that Labor Day morning, which made pushing my pace a little easier than was typical during my training days in 90-degree temps over the summer.

I crossed the finish in 56:16. Not fast, but for me and on highly technical trails, I thought I did OK.

Then I looked at the time sheets that were posted on the side of a van near the finish line. Ninth place out of 12 people in my age division. And 69th out of 96 men overall. Bottom third.

Ouch.

I haven’t been that low on a chart in quite some time, maybe since the 2012 Tulsa Run, where I was happy to just finish. The winner in my group was 18 minutes faster. Eighteen minutes!

I’m no speedster, but it would have been really easy to get down in the dumps about such a pedestrian showing. In the end, however, I didn’t feel bad at all. Here are a few reasons why:

My training over the spring and summer has been abysmal, but it’s getting better. When you get a $2,000 tax bill and a $4,000 car repair tab, you have to do something. And that means working more to earn more. So working a full-time job at nights and doing some part-time work a couple days a week means that many training days just flew away like frightened birds. That loss of mileage comes with a price. I haven’t run more than 8 miles since the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (where I did the half), and many weeks I was lucky to get 13 miles total. Last fall, that was a mid-sized long-run day!

It showed up in my workouts and on the trail. I dragged a bit on Wetterhorn Peak, and really suffered in my backpacking trip to Chicago Basin. My lack of conditioning is the reason why I bagged two peaks instead of four on that latter trip. So when I got back from Colorado, I resolved to buckle down and get things moving again.

I’ve had three straight weeks of pretty good training, sometimes in brutal heat. But I’m finally starting to get my legs and lungs back. Which leads me to the second reason why I feel fine with that so-so finish…

For the first time in months, I had an extra gear at the end of a race. Three weeks of good training and a blessedly mild and cloudy race day meant I could push hard without feeling like I was going to keel over. I was familiar with these trails and I knew when to turn it on for one last burst. It’s too bad I didn’t have that gear available the whole race. That would have been awesome. But it was there at the end as I bounded down the hill, over rocks and tree roots and scooted quickly across the flats.

I finished winded and a little tired, but feeling good. Compared to most of my runs over the past six months, I felt like Usain Bolt.

They didn't ask me if I won my age group. They fed me just the same. Burgers and beer at 9 a.m.? That's how we roll.

They didn’t ask me if I won my age group. They fed me just the same. Burgers and beer at 9 a.m.? That’s how we roll.

Even with my relatively lackluster time, I got pretty much the same thing as everyone else — a T-shirt, a burger and a beer. So unless you were a top winner or top 3 in your group, I got exactly the same thing you did when I crossed the finish. But that’s pretty selfish of me. More importantly is this…

At a time when people are fighting to prevent an outlet mall from eating up precious woodlands and trails on Turkey Mountain’s west side (and the bummer feelings that go with that prospect), it was nice to see a few hundred runners out there busting their butts, having fun and enjoying the trails.

I saw all ages and sizes. Some were fast. Some were walkers. Some were kids while others were well past retirement age. Men and women. Friends running as a group. More than a few had never run a race on trails. And several were from out-of-state.

The finish line scene at Escape from Turkey Mountain. Many, many happy runners. Way happier than mall shoppers.

The finish line scene at Escape from Turkey Mountain. Many, many happy runners. Way happier than mall shoppers.

That says a lot about the value of Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. On a day when most people were sleeping in, overdosing on Netflix or bumming out at the lake, a few hundred people got up early, gathered at the park and ran their tails off. There’s something beautiful and amazing about that, and it wonderfully illustrates what a gem Turkey Mountain is to Tulsa. I can only hope more people will see and recognize that.

Lastly, and most important to me, I had fun! It feels great to run without injury or pain, to chug along, to turn on the jets, to be outside and to test yourself. Scored on all fronts. I’m three weeks into getting back into form, and everything indicates that I’m on the right track.

If this keeps up, I’ll be a whole different runner come November, and hopefully next spring.

Bob Doucette

Update: Where things stand on Turkey Mountain vs. the outlet mall

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Trail enthusiasts picking up trash on the privately owned lands of Turkey Mountain’s west side.

It’s been about a week since news about the planned outlet mall on the west side of Turkey Mountain first broke.

There have been a few developments since the, but truth be told, the “plan” for this outlet mall is in the infant stages. So much so that city officials attending a town hall meeting for the Tulsa’s District 2 admitted that they didn’t know anything about it until the developer announced it.

But there are other things to report. Here’s what I gather so far…

Public response to the outlet mall has been pretty strong, with trail enthusiasts coming out loudly against it. An online petition to preserve the west side of Turkey Mountain was started late last week, and thus far has nearly 4,000 signatures. You can see (and sign) the petition here.

A Facebook page opposing the Turkey Mountain outlet mall popped up and already has more than 1,400 likes, and the Twitter hashtag #KeepTurkeyWild is trending. Multiple blog posts have been written on the subject of why developing Turkey Mountain for retail is not a good idea.

It should be noted that local media has taken notice, publishing and broadcasting stories on the public outcry against commercial development at Turkey Mountain.

UPDATE: The George Kaiser Family Foundation, which owns a significant chunk of the west side of Turkey Mountain, has said it has no interest in developing its portion of the land in question, as reported Wednesday by the Tulsa World newspaper. Presumably, that puts a whole lot of land out of the equation (and saves a lot of trails) while isolating the pocket that is being considered for the outlet mall.

The city has taken an interesting position on Turkey Mountain. Like I pointed out last week, everything west of the Powerline Trail (which includes the 50-acre plot at 61st Street and U.S. 75 where the outlet mall would go) is private property. The city of Tulsa has pretty much taken a hands-off stance toward that property.

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That’s fine, I suppose. Except for one thing: The city has a responsibility to make sure that any development within its limits is done in a way that is actually good for the city.

It would be easy to say that increased sales tax revenue and new retail jobs is good for the city. But this would ignore other factors, such as rainwater drainage issues (just how much runoff from the mall would pour into the ravine just to the east of the mall site, and how much damage would that cause?), traffic issues and the impact of the needed infrastructure expansions on lands that are on 61st Street and Elwood Avenue. Contrary to what many people think, if the mall gets built it will likely affect the rest of Turkey Mountain, as well as properties owned by homeowners, a church and even city property. Four- and six-lane roads (where there is now a two-lane road) have a tendency to do that.

And let’s talk about economics. What economic good does this undeveloped green space provide the city of Tulsa? You’d be surprised.

There was a cycling/running race there last weekend, and each race comes with entry fees that benefit businesses that organize and run these events. A trail running race will take place there on Monday. Money made at these races support local jobs, and sometimes they also raise funds for charities.

And all these trail enthusiasts who bike, hike and run at Turkey Mountain spend money on things like trail shoes, hiking boots, hydration packs, bicycles, cycling gear, running clothes and any number of other things that go with these activities. A lot of retailers sell a bunch of gear to this spend-happy demographic. They might not be buying $200 Coach purses, but they might be buying $160 Hoka trail shoes or $2,000 Trek mountain bikes, and those generate sales tax dollars, too.

Some people have said trail users have been getting away with trespassing for many years now. Really? If a property owner allows people to go on that land, improve that land, clean up that land, and so forth, can you really call that trespassing?

So let’s dive into that a little bit. At least a couple of times a year, crews of volunteers go out to Turkey Mountain with trash sacks, saws and shovels and do horrible things like picking up trash, trimming back overgrown areas and improving trails to prevent destructive erosion. Yeah, some users leave behind trash. But a lot of other users clean that stuff up by the truckloads. Here’s some photos of “trespassers” keeping things clean and wild at Turkey Mountain, including those places on private property.

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This doesn’t include programmed trail maintenance programs that have built the system that exists there today. And it does include times where we’ve cleared out illegal campsites (from real trespassers) and helped police locate a mobile meth lab so it could be safely removed.

Far from being trespassers, I’d say the city’s outdoor community has been an excellent steward of Turkey Mountain, be it the part on city property or the parts on private property. We care about this place, and it shows not just how passionately we oppose retail development there, but also in the previous weeks, months and years that we’ve been out there trying to keep it healthy, safe and clean. And we do this for free.

I’d emphasize that no one I’ve talked to is against building an outlet mall. We’d just prefer to see it built somewhere else. And for the future, it would be good for all the stakeholders involved — the city, land owners, trail users, and so forth — to come up with a long-term use plan that would help us preserve the city’s lone open and wild green space.

Turkey Mountain is a special place, a unique facet to the city of Tulsa. Large numbers of people get outside, get healthy and spend time with their families out here. Tulsa has fine parks, but this is one of those rare places within the city limits where you can get outside and be in a truly natural setting. If we lose it, it’s never coming back.

So keep an eye on this situation. If it’s important to you, pay attention, write your city council representative (the council has final say concerning approval of big developments like this) and talk to your friends and neighbors about it. Get involved.

Bob Doucette