Training hikes at Turkey Mountain

The bright green of new, spring foliage has been intensely beautiful.

I’ve fallen into a pattern over the past several years where hiking fell into two categories: a short, leisurely stroll in the woods or all-out summit hikes high in the mountains. Missing in that group is what I’d call the really important middle: training hikes.

I’d long chosen to use a bunch of other forms of fitness to get me ready for the mountains — running, cycling, team sports, weight lifting, etc. But hiking? Curiously missing. The truth is, I became so invested in that weekend long run or Saturday powerlifting session that I couldn’t make room for something so basic as a healthy, hard-working training hike.

Frankly, this left me unprepared. Even when I was lifting hard or in marathon shape, difficult hikes were almost prohibitively hard. In same cases, a lack of “hiking” shape cost me a summit.

And it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. Any serious backpacker or mountaineer would tell you so. And a few years back, I went to a seminar by RMI where I asked their climbing guides what they did to get in Rainier shape. The answer: Hike a lot, with a load on your back, and make sure there’s plenty of uphill involved.

So this spring I’m making a point to do those “middle ground” hikes with some weight on my back on the weekends. No long runs, no barbell sessions. Just me, a loaded backpack, and some wooded, hilly trails.

I’ve discovered some thing that are really no-brainers, but were educational nonetheless.

First, even hikes between 4 and 6 miles are making me sore. That’s pretty telling.

Second, Getting these regular hikes in has me moving more fluidly and pain-free than I’ve been in many years. And the carryover into running and lifting has been positive.

And lastly, it’s helped me re-embrace the outdoors in a more thorough way. Yes, I’ve been able to enjoy my outside time running and cycling, but it’s different on a hike. The more deliberate pace (even when working hard) has allowed me to really soak it in.

Some images from my most recent hikes include some really spectacular spring scenery.

Wildflowers in a meadow at Turkey Mountain.
Singletrack through the green tunnel.
More wonderful singletrack with a healthy forest canopy overhead.

Unusual trees, scenic overlooks and more have also been a part of the journey.

An overlook with a view of the Arkansas River, which has been pretty fully this spring.
This large tree has sort of a broken arch feel to it. Anyway, it sticks out.
There are several ponds at Turkey Mountain, including this one dubbed Pepsi Lake. Many have fish, and at least one pond is home to a beaver, complete with a den.
I call this part of the trail the Cleft in the Rock. It’s a midpoint on a trail called Ho Chi, which has some pretty tough spots for runners.

It’s also important to remember that this place is wild, and as such, is home to wildlife. In my years of running and hiking Turkey Mountain, I’ve seen deer, owls, lizards, snakes, rabbits, armadillos and any number of other creatures. It’s our park, but we’re visitors. It’s their home.

An adult copperhead I saw hiking last weekend. Copperheads are venomous, so it’s a good idea to give them some room. But also, here’s a good reminder: When you see a snake of any kind, leave it be. Don’t kill it, poke it, move it, pick it up or throw things at it. Just give it room and leave it alone. They’re an essential part of the ecosystem, so it’s good to respect that.

It’s silly to me that I haven’t been more consistently hiking, seeing that it’s played such a big part of my life. But you know how it goes: Training for a race takes over, or some other goal crops up. Work or family obligations arise. Something’s gotta go, and too often for me that’s been a healthy hike. But as summer nears and the mountains call, I know I need to do more to be ready. And what’s more, I don’t need to rob myself of the benefits that a walk in the woods provides.

Scenery so good you can hear and smell it.

Bob Doucette

A first step: Building a sustainable trail at Turkey Mountain

Some of the more than two-dozen volunteers who showed up to cut and build a new trail at Turkey Mountain.

We hinted about this during the winter, but last weekend it finally came to pass: The first project to close a bad trail and replace it with a good one at Turkey Mountain.

A crew of more than two dozen volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition grabbed tools and marched a mile or so into the woods to carve a new path that the River Parks Authority (the land manager for Turkey Mountain) hopes will be an enjoyable – and sustainable – trail.

At the same time, the trail it replaces – one that goes straight down the slope of the ridge and has been prone to severe erosion – is being closed off so it can grow over and heal.

This is the first of what could be a number of trail reroutes at Turkey Mountain. The park is criss-crossed with trails that were created by mountain bikers and hikers decades ago. Some of these trails are great. But others were made more for the aesthetics of the moment, only to fall into irreparable disrepair. Volunteers have spent the previous several months identifying “rogue” trails while other established routes are being evaluated to see if they can be managed and salvaged, of if they’ll need to be closed off and rerouted.

The finished result of a new section of trail on Turkey Mountain.

The final product of last weekend’s work is solid. It lengthens the route and provides some switchbacks to ease the climbs while also making the trail surface more durable. It links a popular spot we call “Rock City” to the Westside YMCA camp on the western edge of the park.

Many hands made for light work, and within a little more than three hours, hikers, cyclists and runners were already using it.

I know that some people might not like seeing some of their old favorites go away, but this has to happen if we want to keep the trail system and the forest around it healthy. In the long run, the experience will be improved for Turkey Mountain’s users.

Proof that I wasn’t just leaning on a shovel while others did the real work. 😉 (Laurie Biby photo)

Another plus: These volunteer days are bringing together a wide spectrum of Turkey Mountain’s users. Volunteers from the group represented pretty much everyone who treads these paths, and everyone involved is not only able to put in some sweat equity, but learn the thinking behind trail building, not to mention the skills that work involves.

More work like this will be done, along with maintenance on existing trails (plenty of trouble spots have been identified) and trash cleanup. Looking toward the long term, work at Turkey Mountain will hopefully get us closer to realizing the ideas behind Turkey Mountain’s master plan.

After a good number of hours at work, a bunch of us did what all good trail hounds do: We hung out in the parking lot, enjoyed a few refreshments, and had a can crushing contest. I did not win.

There is something special about being involved in creating something new, and I imagine more opportunities for that are on the way. Stay tuned.

Bob Doucette

Let’s talk about ‘active recovery’

Some people have “active recovery” all wrong. A short walk, a leisurely hike, or something else that does not resemble a workout is what it should be.

Folks, we need to have a talk.

A bunch of you, pandemic or not, are still training hard. There are a few races out there (virtual and in-person events). Your home setup might be complete enough where you don’t miss the gym.

If you’ve found a way to keep a training schedule going, good on ya. You haven’t let the Rona keep you down. So you’re doing your workouts, staying active, and taking a rest day, right?


“Well, I do ‘active recovery’ on my rest days,” you say.

Fair enough.

But what do you consider “active recovery?”

If your active recovery consists of a lesser version of a workout, it’s not active recovery.

To be more specific: If you’re a runner and your active recovery on your rest day is a run, it’s not active recovery.

If you’re a lifter and your active recovery day is a mellow day with the weights, it’s not active recovery.

If you’re anyone on the planet and your active recovery is a pickup game of basketball, soccer, football or whatever, it’s not active recovery.

Seeing a trend?

People who take a strong interest in fitness, sports and competition are driven people. The daily grind is a matter of routine, filled with tough workouts that test your mettle. Race day, comp day and game day are your stage to make all that training mean something, so a day off seems like a wasted opportunity.

That’s the mentality that drives higher performance and better fitness. But it’s also the thing that prompts people to train through injury (not good), do run streaks (just don’t) and join 30-, 60-, 90- or whatever-day challenges (whyyyyyy). The more-is-better deal is what gives us the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, and the people who believe getting a visit from Mr. Rhabdo is a badge of honor.

And then the injuries pile up and you’re sidelined. By that time, you’re getting all the rest days you never wanted.

Mr. and Ms. More Is Better are also the types who mischaracterize active recovery.

So what is it?

The thinking behind active recovery is that a little movement is better than being totally idle. There is a lot of merit to that. I don’t fault people for going into couch potato mode on a rest day. You need it. But moving a little on your rest day is actually better.

So what do you do? Some ideas:

Take a walk. Yup, it’s that simple. Lace up your shoes, go outside, and take a 30-minute stroll in your neighborhood. That will work out some soreness and keep you from getting too stiff. Movement is good. Just don’t turn it into an epic power walk or allow it morph into a run. Just walk.

Enjoy a short bike ride. Some rides are easy and flat, some are hard-charging. Do the former. Thirty minutes on a mellow ride is a good way to work out the kinks.

Try some yoga. Some low-intensity yoga might be just the trick to get your blood moving and alleviate the tightness in your muscles and joints.

Whip out the foam roller. It might not be the most comfortable way to spend an afternoon, but 30 minutes or so with a foam roller can work a lot like a massage and aid in muscle recovery.

Take a hike. Find an easy trail and book time for a few miles. No big summit hikes, no hard-charging paces. Just a mellow walk in the woods. Breathe some fresh air.

Active recovery is helpful in a few ways. Movement gets your circulation going, which aids in recovery. Doing something, even if it’s totally mellow, keeps that false guilt of inactivity from invading your head.

Most of the time, I go for a short walk on my rest day. Recently, it was something different.

I had a great week of training. A tough week. I ran some and lifted hard. My last lift of the week was a monthly “challenge day,” where I performed heavy deadlifts. It was an intense day to cap off an intense week. My joints were slightly angry, muscles were sore and central nervous system taxed.

But I wanted to make sure the dents and dings of the week didn’t settle in to body and become a problem.

So I did a hike – 3 miles, not much vert, casual pace. I stopped to take pics or observe wildlife. When I got home, I felt good. Loosened up. And hungry for lunch!

The next day, I was good to go: Recovered and ready to tackle a tough leg day workout, and everything else the weekly training schedule could throw at me.

So how will you do your rest day active recovery?  That’s up to you. Just make sure it’s not a workout.

Bob Doucette

Nature’s timeclock is blessedly slow

Time moves differently out here.

About a week ago, I was doing an interview with a wildlife biologist. I was anxious to talk to her because her expertise brings insight to a project I’m working on, and the fact that she took time to talk to me while out in the field doing wildlife counts made it that much more appreciated.

As we spoke, she said something as an aside that stuck with me. She said she wanted to observe these animals “slowed down” in their time instead of what we’re used to in our uber-structured world.

It hit me because in my life, most things are more or less organized by times that I set: When I get up, when I eat each meal, when I hit the gym, go to work, wind down and hit the sack. Every day has its own routine that is specific to preordained tasks that I want done. Daily deadlines at work must be met, and the clock is always ticking.

I imagine that’s true for just about everyone. Everyone, that is, except non-human creatures that live in the wild. And when we visit their world (face it, almost all of us are “visitors,” even if we’re outdoorsy types), it’s striking how much differently time passes.

The clock tells basically two times: Sunrise and sundown. In extremely hot places, the heat of the day pushes wildlife into the shade and underground, waiting for things to cool. In cold places, winter drives hibernation. Seasons dictate migration, fur thickness and even the color of hairs and plumage. Mating and birth have their own seasons, too. So, there’s structure in the wild, too, but not in the manic way in which it’s enforced by humans.

Day to day, things slow down. Way down. And they get quieter.

On solo hikes, the quiet of the land hits me like a truck. Animals don’t seem to be in a rush, unless they have to be rushed. Usually that’s driven by the need to feed or escape those who want to feed on them. On multi-day backpacking trips, the simplicity of the unmanufactured world can be jarring, too. You want to sleep in, but after a time, dawn is your alarm clock. I stay up late every night at home, but come sundown at camp, I turn in. A few days of this and you hit a natural routine, that circadian rhythm that doctors keep telling us is so healthy.

And have you ever noticed how boring it can be out there? No TV, no cellphone coverage, no radio, no constant barrage of things to grab your attention. Just trees, breezes and the muted sounds of wildlife. Nothing for your thumbs to do for days at a time.

But here’s the kicker: Sometimes you need to be bored. All those man-made crutches that keep our attention can make our mental muscles weak from disuse. You can actually spend time to think more deeply. Or not think at all. Eventually, you notice things more – colors of the woods, the desert or the prairie. The different calls of birds and rodents. You’ll see the way water moves and perceive what the skies are trying to tell you about what’s to come.

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous of the biologist I talked to, because it’s her job to be in these environs. She gets paid to live on nature’s clock, and when the task is done, she can return to “modern” life. It’s a gift to be able to float between those two worlds.

I like my routines. They serve me well. But I need to take a page out of her book and travel more between my structured life and that of a slower, more ancient timeclock.

Bob Doucette

My favorite outdoor images of 2019

Looking back in 2019, a lot of people will write or talk about their year in review. For me, I’ve meandered into seeing the year in pictures. It wasn’t the most epic year of outdoor adventures or achievements for me, but there were still some pretty sweet memories that I was lucky enough to capture in photos. So no fancy writing or morals, just some images. Here goes:

We’ll start with this one, showing the emergence of spring.

Mosses and grasses announce the start of spring at Turkey Mountain in Tulsa.

As spring really took off the greenery of the woods took over. And made for a nice contrast with the bright blue of a clear spring sky.

It pays to look up every now and then.

Sometimes the elements weren’t so kind. In northeastern Oklahoma, we saw record rains and lots of flooding. I snapped the photo below on the banks of the Arkansas River just southwest of downtown Tulsa. At this point, the river was about 20 feet above normal.

The Arkansas River at the height of flood stage, southwest of downtown Tulsa in May. The beams just above the water are usually about 20 feet above the river.

Eventually the rains cleared enough to do some hiking. I love the look of a trail that bends into the woods.

A warm summer day in the trails at Turkey Mountain.

I did manage one pilgrimage into the mountains of Colorado. Below is a fun shot I took of a hiking partner as we worked our way toward Mount Lindsey.

My hiking partner, Laura, is silhouetted near Mount Lindsey, Colo.

Down the trail, there was this scenic creek. The only downside: the beetle kill of the spruces along the creek’s banks. All too common in the high country.

A pretty creek near camp in the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Near the trailhead of this hike is this broad meadow with one of the most scenic vistas I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Gorgeous meadow with a view of Blanca Peak, Colo.

During one of my fall hikes, I took the time to notice the small details. You can even find beauty in the things where life has passed.

Scenic decay as seen in the fall at Turkey Mountain.

It’s a small collection of images, a lot of it close to home. It was that sort of year for me, but not without its charms. My hope is that 2020 will see more outdoor adventures and keep adding to the sweet memories I’ve made so far. Here’s hoping you all can make a few memories of your own.

Bob Doucette

Training update: Signs of progress at the Tulsa Run 15K

For a short burst, I was actually fast. But really, this race went pretty well.

I set out in late summer to create a new challenge for myself. Knowing that the cooler temperatures of fall were approaching (and fall race season), it seemed like a good time to see what I could if I trained harder for a specific goal race.

For me, that’s the Route 66 Marathon’s half-marathon event. Last year, I surprised myself with my second-fastest half marathon time. I learned a lot from that and wanted to take those lessons into this fall to see what might happen. I snagged a more aggressive training schedule and got to work.

It’s important to follow your training plan. While it’s fine to have a plan, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t follow it. So I’ve been strict about that. Since late August, I’ve missed one workout (I went hiking in Arkansas instead of competing in a 5K, per the schedule) and modified one other (speed work on a treadmill during a downpour instead of running four miles outside). On everything else, I’ve done the work, even when I didn’t feel like it.

What’s also important is measuring the results. If you’re not making progress, it means you’re either going through the motions to check a box or something else is wrong (illness, injury, etc.). I think I’ve been making progress. But they only way to know for sure is to test myself and see.

I had a good opportunity to do that last weekend. The Tulsa Run is a classic local race, and this was the 40th annual version of it. The main event is a 15K road race through some of the hillier portions in and around downtown Tulsa, a course layout that is a change from the race’s traditional out-and-back, mostly flat aspects. My training schedule called for a 15K race last weekend, so instead of a slow-go long run, it would be a more energetic effort on a race day.

I’ve run the Tulsa Run five times, including three times on the newer, tougher course. So how did it go?

Gratefully, the weather was perfect: 34 degrees at start time, sunny and light winds. There would be no overheating, so I’d be able to push myself.

The race starts out with about a mile leading out of downtown downhill. From there, it’s a roller-coaster of hills, some big, some small. I feel bad for the runners who didn’t train on hills. They suffered.

This lasted from Mile 2 through Mile 6. After that, there is a flat section that goes on for two more miles before the course winds its way back up the hill to downtown and the finish. In my opinion, that last mile is the toughest part, a series of rolling hills that goes ever up until you cross the finish line.

My expectations weren’t that high, seeing that I’m still weighing at or near 190 pounds (I do love me some barbecue and tacos). But during training, I’ve made sure to include hill climbs. Weekly mileage volume is in the 30s now.

All of that paid off. All my 5K splits were nearly identical. Yes, the hills were hard. But on the downhills, I could lengthen my stride, control my breathing and regain my wind while making up time lost on the inclines; running on hills is good practice for the real thing, and experience counts.

Oddly similar splits. Not bad.

I finished at 1:31:23, my second-fastest 15K and the fastest since the course change a few years ago. The 9:48 pace is not far from my goal pace for Route 66. Much closer than I thought it would be. These aren’t barnburner times by any stretch, but for a guy who has been slow for several years, it’s not too bad. And a sign of progress.

The Tulsa Run is a good test for people running Route 66, as the characteristics of the courses are very similar. I always fail that final hill climb on Route 66’s half, just like I used to do on the Tulsa Run’s last mile. This time was different, so I’m hoping I can make more progress these next few weeks, smash the remaining workouts and maybe hit that goal. And PR, of course. Either way, I’ll let you know.

Bob Doucette

Five reasons why I run


If you run much, you get a lot of interesting questions and statements about it.

“Man, I don’t think I could run a mile!”

“Dude, I don’t even drive that far!”

“The only time you’ll see me running is if getting away from a bear…”

That, plus many in the medical field — and even more outside of it — saying it’s bad for your knees. Personally, that last opinion is hogwash for most people, but that’s another topic for another day. The fact is, most people don’t like to run because it’s hard, it’s not as glitzy as other activities, or whatever.

Yup, running is not for everyone, and that included me up until about five years ago. But I took it up as a newer, cheaper form of fitness and I’ve learned a few things along the way. So here’s my list of why I run…

It’s good for me. Whether I’m doing a long, steady run, or plowing up hills, or burning up the track, running is good for my body. It burns calories, improves cardiovascular health and leaves me, physically speaking, better off. I stay leaner and healthier if I’m faithful to running at least four times a week. I also get sick less often and, believe it or not, improve athletic performance in other areas. The post-run endorphin rush perks up my day. In short, I’m a healthier person because of running.

It clears my head. Whether I’m getting in a quick two miles or forging ahead for twenty, running has a way of shutting down the noise of the outside world and bringing peace to my spirit. The routine of it is meditative. Many people pray while they run, or find some other form of calming themselves by focusing on the task at hand. There are plenty of distractions, devices and crises that will leave most people frazzled and tired. The antidote is some alone time on the run. Trust me on that one.


It gets me outside. I love being in the outside air. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot, cold, windy, cloudy, sunny or whatever. Aside from the occasional treadmill workout, all my runs are outside. I get to know my neighborhood, my city, and my trails by lacing up and heading down the path, not by staring at the TV, my phone or otherwise planted on the couch.

Because I can. There are people who, because of their health, or injuries, or whatever, cannot run. But I’m able-bodied. I run long because I can. I run big hills because I can. I run fast (sometimes, sort of) because I can. And if I find myself lacking in any of these areas, I keep running until I can do it. I’ve been given one body and one life, so if there are things I can do that are awesome but choose not to, what a waste that would be. Carpe diem, right?

Its opens a new world. I’ve met awesome people through running. I’ve experienced the excitement of a race, the newness of a trail, and the secret spots of my city that I’d have missed if I only saw them through the window of a car. My world would be a lot smaller and far less rich had I not become a runner.


Why do you run? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Bob Doucette

My 500th post: What a ride it’s been

After 500 posts, you'd think I'd run out of stuff to say. Nope.

After 500 posts, you’d think I’d run out of stuff to say. Nope.

It’s hard for me to believe, but this very post marks a milestone for me. Going back to the fall of 2011, I’ve posted here 499 times. This marks No. 500.

It’s tough to quantify all that has happened during that time, and what I’ve chronicled here. It’s been a fun ride so far!

Adventure anyone?

Adventure anyone?

Some of the highlights for me have been the trip reports. I created a category just for them, and I still believe the heart of this blog belongs there — all the training, the gear, the planning, those things led to adventures that have taken me to some incredible places in several states. Add in a couple of guest posts and you’re talking about stories coming from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Not surprisingly, these reports keep getting clicked by people seeking their own adventures in the places I’ve grown to love.

Being active outdoors. Yes, please.

Being active outdoors. Yes, please.

There has also been plenty of fitness to go around. It’s a big part of my life, be it about running, weight training or just funny observations I’ve seen while on the run or in the gym. Race reports have been big here. You all have seen me go from an occasional runner to a marathoner in just a few short years. Maybe it’s time to do another one.

Despite the fear and violence, the good guys showed up. And will keep doing so.

Despite the fear and violence, the good guys showed up. And will keep doing so.

Lighthearted fun and humor is a big part of what I do, but there have been some more serious moments. Following the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, I looked at what was facing the people of Boston by what I’d seen already happen in Oklahoma City. I found cause for encouragement, and said as much. More than 40,000 of you read that post, which remains the most-read thing I’ve ever written on an online platform. Since then, we’ve seen the justice system deal with the surviving terrorist from the attack, as well as a whole lot of inspiration in the past two Boston Marathons from runners, supporters and survivors. Boston proved me right.

Mmmm. Gear.

Mmmm. Gear.

And let’s not forget the gear reviews. I’ve been able to test a lot of gear for running, hiking, backpacking and camping, among other things. I’ve done most of that on my own, but it’s also been good to work with Salomon Sports to test their shoes and give them — and you — honest feedback on their stuff.

Worth protecting.

Worth protecting.

Lastly, it’s been great to see how this space has helped give voice to preserving my local trail haunt. Thousands of people read and shared posts about Turkey Mountain and the controversy surrounding a proposed outlet mall there. While that situation is still not completely settled, the level of awareness and advocacy for urban wilderness in my hometown has increased dramatically since last fall. It’s been good to be a part of that, and I’m grateful to all who have joined the effort.

So what can you look forward to going forward? Life has its ebbs and flows, but rest assured there will be more adventures, a whole lot more fitness and more gear reviews.

In conclusion, let me just say thank you. Thanks for reading, as there is no greater compliment to a writer. Thanks for commenting, even if you disagree with my take. The interaction is great regardless. And thanks for sharing. If you’ve shared any of my posts on social media other otherwise, you have my gratitude.

So there it is, folks. No. 500 in the books. I hope you all have enjoyed it, found some usefulness from the posts, and maybe some inspiration. Possibly even a laugh or two. Here’s hoping we can keep going down this journey together for a while longer, and who knows — maybe I’ll see you all on the trail.

NOTE: Oh, and if you haven’t already, look me up on Instagram (proactiveoutside), find me on Twitter (@RMHigh7088) or like my page on Facebook. I’d love to connect!

Bob Doucette

Turkey Mountain update: What it means now that Simon has abandoned its original outlet mall plans

An endangered view at Turkey Mountain. Let's preserve the good.

An amazing view at Turkey Mountain. Let’s preserve the good.

I’m going to say something that might shock some of you.

Welcome to the Tulsa market, Simon Premium Outlet Malls.

That’s a phrase a lot of us were more than willing to say, provided that the real estate giant did not plop its planned outlet mall on Turkey Mountain. But in a huge turn of developments, reports have surfaced that Simon has changed its plans, now intent on building its massive retail project on an already cleared piece of property in the Tulsa suburb of Jenks, several miles south and well away from Tulsa’s last great green space, Turkey Mountain.


Simon announced plans to build an outlet mall on a piece of property along U.S. Highway 75 and 61st Street in southwest Tulsa, land that just happened to be at the southwest corner of Turkey Mountain on a piece of privately owned property. The land overlooks a YMCA kids camp and adjoins a large section of wooded wild land, enjoyed by hikers, runners, cyclists and nature enthusiasts. The thought of having such a large project built there (80+ shops) drew heavy community opposition, with worries over loss of trails, stormwater pollution, erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, traffic safety problems and costs all being mentioned.

The outcry was heard by a number of Tulsa City Council members, many of whom voiced skepticism toward the viability and value of having a mall there. The Tulsa YMCA also made its position clear, that the project as proposed was not acceptable given its proximity to the Westside YMCA kids camp. Public forums about the project were one-sided, with large majorities of those attending saying they didn’t want a mall built on the west side of Turkey Mountain.

On Wednesday, a report in the Tulsa World, citing the Jenks mayor and city manager as well as documents from Simon Property Group, showed that the company now intends to build in Jenks, just off the Creek Turnpike. Simon has gone so far to enter into a contract with landowners of the new site in Jenks.


For now, the property at Turkey Mountain will remain undeveloped. Although Simon still has a contract on the tract, the focus of the company has changed. Simon has clearly seen that it will not have public or City Council support for doing what it wants to do at Turkey Mountain. It looks like momentum for Simon’s project has swung south.

The land in question, however, is still in play. Just because Simon wants out does not mean the land’s owners are going to do nothing. Unless conservation is their stated goal, people don’t buy land just to let it sit there. My assumption is that it’s still for sale. So while Simon is focusing elsewhere (and any future investor would face the same hurdles Simon faced), that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

There are efforts underway to take the parcel off the market for good. The Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition, which spearheaded efforts to preserve the land, is now an officially recognized non-profit organization that can accept monetary, tax-deductible donations. One of the coalition’s goals is to buy the land if it becomes available. It’s valued at somewhere around $3.2 million. It’s a tall order to raise that much money, but the TUWC has been fighting — and winning — uphill battles since it was formed last fall. If you want to donate, here is a link to the coalition’s GuFundMe site; a link for larger donations through the Tulsa Community Foundation; and for direct donations, you can go to or mail donations to Yorktown Bank, 2222 S. Utica Place, #350, Tulsa, OK, 74114.

This is a big win for conservation. Normally, conservation efforts fall short in Red State America, particularly when it comes to conservation vs. economic development. It doesn’t get any redder than Tulsa. But when people were able to see all the issues at stake — preserving a natural space, promoting outdoor recreation and health, valuing quality of life over tax revenues, just to name a few — they overwhelmingly sided with conservation. There is plenty of room in and around Tulsa for economic development, but very little space given to places like Turkey Mountain. Tulsans should be proud for having seen this and, more importantly, acting on it. The message of many voices is strong, even when the goal is a little outside what is normal within the region’s prevailing politics.

This is a big win for Tulsa. Certain people at City Hall may disagree (on the grounds that the city is losing out on potential tax revenues), but in the long run, this is good for the city. Turkey Mountain is a tremendous asset for Tulsa. It’s a draw not only for Tulsa-area residents, but for those living outside the metro area and even outside Oklahoma. People go there to enjoy the trails, coming from all over the country. They spend money here. And for people looking to relocate, having an asset like Turkey Mountain is just the sort of thing that makes the city look more attractive. Preserving and even enhancing places like Turkey Mountain is critical in terms of recruiting young professionals and even entire companies. Very few cities in the Midwest and the South have such a place. We do. Turkey Mountain is a huge selling point. Protecting it should be a priority.

But what about those potential lost tax dollars? It’s not that cut-and-dry, given that Simon wanted a large tax increment finance district set up to help fund construction of the mall and the substantial infrastructure improvement that would be needed. Given the uncertainty of the plan’s success at that location, the possibility exists that the sales taxes earned at the mall might not offset the city’s costs. Even so, Tulsa can still get behind another outlet mall project on the city’s east side. If economic development really is that big of a priority, that’s where City Hall’s attention should go. If the city can help that project succeed, it will get the new revenues it seeks and enhance quality of life by protecting its natural assets.

Keep in mind, nothing is set in stone. All kinds of wheeling and dealing can change things on the turn of a dime. But this week’s news should be welcomed as a positive development and be seen as a call for further action. The next step is solidifying the future of the all the property in Tulsa’s urban wilderness. Act accordingly!


Bob Doucette