Once a land where wild buffalos roamed through native prairie grass, wild wolves hunted rabbits and graceful deer ate indigenous flowers and grass, Oklahoma is slowly returning to its untamed and beautiful roots with the help of environmentally-conscious places like Tulsa’s Gathering Place.
Though the land which was once home to the buffalos and prairie dogs has been milled and ground into foundations that now hold CityPlex, BOK and hundreds of coffee shops, the Gathering Place sets the stage for a comeback with a variety of wildlife and plants.
Gathering Place has always kept sustainability in mind. They preserved much of the existing trees during the construction process and underwent a replanting program to increase the presence of trees and plants throughout the park. They sought to restore the disrupted habitat and promote an increase of biodiversity.
The introduction of more than 100 different tree species and a meadow provides beauty and awe for visitors, and serves as a new habitat for local flora and fauna, encouraging different animal species to visit.
Through a competitive process, the Gathering Place selection committee chose Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a world-renowned firm that has designed numerous parks such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Allegheny Riverfront Park, to create the landscape design.
“Part of the reason this landscape architect was chosen was because of his wild design aesthetic and because of his focus toward sustainability and focus toward the natural look,” said Stacie Martin, the director of horticulture. “They have a very naturalistic aesthetic and liked the native areas of Oklahoma.”
The park practices its sustainable methods by using materials that are guaranteed to be durable and resilient, ensuring the park’s performance for years to come. Natural stone products that have been quarried from earth such as granite, marble, limestone and more, are used extensively throughout the park. Ash wood and pinewood have been thermally modified, a process that involves no harmful chemicals, and are used for bench slats, decking and light poles.
The park is also on an entirely automated LED lighting system, ensuring that energy is only being used where it is needed. The six million gallons of water in the park is continuously recycled through adjacent wetlands not only to conserve the water but also to cleanse it, eliminating the need for chemical treatments.
The 5,800 species of trees also help with reducing storm water runoff through their root systems and leaves as well as mitigating the heat in an urban area. The 16 acres of meadow and prairie mix help cut back on watering and mowing in the park.
Gathering Place’s goal is biodiversity, and they achieve it by taking advantage of Oklahoma’s natural diversity of ecosystems for different animals and plants.
“Different birds like different seeds from different plants and different butterflies like different nectar from different flowers,” said Martin.
Gathering Place is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., so check out their outlandish plants, watch for different animals and enjoy what is good for the soul and the earth.
Photos by Seth Roche