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

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

  1. I heard it said somewhere that you can judge how a city cares about it’s people by the number of parks and open spaces it provides. Ever been to Paris? I rest my case. Good Luck.

  2. Pingback: GKFF Steps in | Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition

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