We’ve seen better days at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness. News about Simon Properties wanting to build an outlet mall on the wilderness area’s west side got a good number of people riled up, but that has not stopped some work from being done on that site. Even preliminary work, like taking core samples from the ground, has had an adverse effect on woodlands.
But on Saturday, Turkey Mountain had a good day. The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition, in partnership with the River Parks Authority, the Oklahoma Earthbike Fellowship, TATUR Racing and the International Mountain Biking Association, held a work day at the park. Usually, we get a couple of dozen, or maybe around 30 or 40 people show up, which is great. Over the summer, a work day with serious corporate sponsors brought out about 120 people for a National Trails Day effort.
But this work day saw around 150 people come out on a Saturday morning to do some work.
The group was sizable, and the weather was about as good as you can get in mid-January.
I was tasked with taking a crew out on the Powerline Trail. This route gets a lot of litter, and as you can see, we stuffed several bags with trash. Most people don’t litter, but some do, and over time it adds up.
Most of the trash included things like empty water bottles, beer cans and food wrappers. But we also hauled out a busted printer, tires, scrap metal and a car muffler. And that was just my group. There were several crews on all of the other trails on River Parks land, hauling out garbage. It made for quite a truckload of junk.
While I’m not happy about the carelessness some people display with their refuse, I sure was glad to have so many people come out to clean it all up.
Other trail work was done: Pruning, trimming, and on one particularly eroded trail section, a major overhaul to shore it up and make it safer for cyclists, runners and hikers. That was a major effort with a lot of hard work.
At the end of the day, Turkey Mountain became a better place because of the efforts from trail users of all stripes: Runners, hikers, cyclists and equestrians. We saw retirees, young people, athletes and families, with kids in tow. In my crew, I had two little guys eagerly attacking the trash and hauling it out.
For them, it meant not just giving back, but learning more about Turkey Mountain, why this place is important and what’s at stake concerning its future.
Something I’ve said before is definitely true here. People don’t care about something they don’t see. It explains why conservation efforts are so hard, especially when confronted by big-money players who promise the world in exchange for permanently altering the land they wish to exploit.
But when people see what is out there, whether it be Turkey Mountain, or the Grand Canyon, or some other wild place, they tend to stick up for conservation issues. It’s why we have a national parks system, why the Grand Canyon is not a massive reservoir, and why places like Yosemite, Yellowstone and many others have been allowed to remain as they have for eons. And it’s also the reason why past Tulsa leaders set aside Turkey Mountain to remain a wooded, wild area for city residents to enjoy rather than exploit.
So I’m encouraged by what I saw. Even if just 30 people showed up, I’d have been happy. But to have our biggest cleanup and work day ever, that tells me something. It tells me people care about Turkey Mountain and will work to preserve it.
Here’s to more of that in the coming days, months and years.