When it ended, it was not with a thud or a bang, but with a slow, last gasp.
On Monday, representatives with the Simon Property Group told the city of Tulsa that is was dropping its plans for an outlet mall at Turkey Mountain. A new site, likely in the suburb of Jenks, is now being targeted as the place where the retail development giant will turn next.
Some folks at city hall are not happy about this. They really wanted that sales tax money, and they’re not giving up on finding a new place inside Tulsa’s city limits for the mall. But it ain’t happening at Turkey Mountain. Of that, we’re quite certain.
“It’s the nail in the coffin for that particular site,” Clay Bird, the director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Development, told the Tulsa World. “As far as I know, they haven’t decided anything for certain or officially.”
For Bird, uttering those words had to hurt. He was a big booster of building at the intersection of U.S. 75 and 61st Street, a site overlooking the Westside YMCA kids camp and a lot of wild, wooded acres that outdoor enthusiasts have come to love. But there it is. No need for a city council vote for final approval (or denial) is needed, and I’m sure there are some on that board who are all too happy about that.
So what did we learn? A lot, really.
First, you can never underestimate the power of ordinary people. Thousands signed a petition to stop the mall development, and the social media campaigns to prevent it were numerous. A lot of folks stepped up, let their voices be heard, and faced down big money and (to an extent) city hall to save what they saw as valuable.
Second, the optics of a big retail development looming over a kids’ outdoor camp proved to be the proverbial last straw. Opposition was stout regardless, but the prospect of a kids’ camp losing its most important aspect — that of being in the woods, and away from the city — soured a lot of people on the mall.
And third, there is still a good deal of work to be done. Just because Simon won’t be hauling in the bulldozers doesn’t mean someone else won’t try. The best way to secure the boundaries of Turkey Mountain is to take that piece of land out of play. To preserve it, someone needs to buy it.
Who might that be? It’s hard to say at this point. The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition won’t come right out and say it’s gunning to buy that specific parcel. But it has been working to raise funds for the purpose of acquiring property to secure Turkey Mountain’s long-term future. You can read between the lines there yourself.
But the price tag is in the millions. So if the coalition is going to do it, it needs help. So here’s what I know:
The coalition has a site set up through the Tulsa Community Foundation to accept funds specifically for the acquisition of land. You can donate to that fund online at the link above.
TUWC also has a GoFundMe site established to raise money for land acquisition and other operating costs.
My guess is that if enough people donate, people with deeper pockets will notice and join in. Suddenly that huge sum of money looks like a much more reachable goal.
So there you have it. The future of Turkey Mountain is safe, for now. But there is a good way to make that future much more permanent. Check the sites listed above, and if you are so inclined, go ahead and donate. It’s a fantastic long-term investment.