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A trailblazing ‘Master Plan’ for Turkey Mountain

During a community meeting on Nov. 14, a draft of the Turkey Mountain Master Plan was unveiled by the River Parks Authority and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). The Master Plan adds many improvements, access areas and recreational activities within the Turkey Mountain area. The MVVA also partnered with Tulsa to build the Gathering Place, which was named 2018’s best new attraction in the country by USA Today and celebrated its one-year anniversary in September. 

“What sparked the idea was that River Parks realized that [Turkey Mountain] is being loved to death,” said MVVA Principal Matt Urbanski. “There are trails that are very eroded, people are concerned about that, and [River Parks] knew something needed to be done that wasn’t just a repair job.”

The four key components of the Master Plan include “restored nature, new access, sustainable trails and exciting programs.” 

Turkey Mountain is home to a unique landscape called Midwest oak savanna that once extended from Minnesota to Texas, and the Master Plan proposes preserving this landscape. The idea to bring back the true beauty of the forested areas, diversify the environment and get rid of invasive species of plants through prescribed fire was explained by John Weir, who works for OSU Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

“Prescribed fire is the planned application of fire under specific conditions to achieve goals and objectives,” Weir explained during the meeting. “Healthy forests and grasslands are some of the benefits Turkey Mountain can gain from this. If you have healthy forests and grasslands, you have a diverse plant community and you have a diverse wildlife community.”

Other components of the Master Plan included ideas to expand the trails to cater to a wider audience and redesign certain trails to adhere to extreme hikers, mountain bikers and people with disabilities.

“We want to create a better user experience for all users. The goal is to try to keep the trails natural, but be able to work in sustainable practice,” said Vice President of Progressive Trail Design Jason Stouder. 

Turkey Mountain is already equipped to accommodate users of all types, but it is not optimized. The concepts for more trails are extensive while also keeping Turkey Mountain’s natural environment in mind. The River Parks Authority and the MVVA want to build kid-friendly, adaptive and extreme trails so there is a good experience for everyone.

“The goal is to make as much trail as possible at Turkey Mountain that’s more sustainable and not as prone to erosion,” Stouder said.

Ideas were also pitched at the meeting to redesign some areas of Turkey Mountain to hold recreational areas: areas for an archery range, camping, an outdoor fitness area and even an aerial adventure course.

“You see that Turkey Mountain can make a really big imprint and is an important element in Tulsa’s identity,” Urbanski concluded. “[Tulsa] has a really great opportunity with this mountain right here.”