Revamping the Parks
A group of five citizens' committees charged with examining various areas of operations for Tulsa Parks is scheduled to begin wrapping up its work soon and may be ready to issue its recommendations by January.
The City Council approved a new master plan for Tulsa Parks in September, and the citizens committees have been working since then to examine five areas of concern -- trails, finance, programs, marketing and facilities. A total of 53 citizens are taking part in the process, with the committees ranging in size from eight to 18 members.
Park director Lucy Dolman said she hopes the committees are ready to make their recommendations to the Park Board by the middle of January or early February. She said it would be premature to discuss their ideas until all the committee chairs can get together and discuss the process as a whole.
"The citizens process appears to be working well, and there is no question that Tulsans are passionate about their parks," she said.
Dolman's department has faced a number of financial challenges over the past several years, including budget cuts that led to the closure of seven of its 16 community centers earlier this year. Many Tulsa Parks facilities are aging and have not been well maintained.
The Tulsa Parks and Recreation Master Plan's executive summary included a number of recommendations for dealing with those problems, including establishing a task force to examine the idea of combining the existing park department with the River Parks Authority and the Tulsa County Parks Department.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recently released annual report on household food security has drawn the attention of the Oklahoma Policy Institute -- a nonprofit organization that provides information, analysis and commentary on issues that affect the state -- which has attempted to illustrate the problem in a way that should resonate with local football fans.
The report indicates that over a three-year period from 2007-2009, an average of 15.2 percent of Oklahoma households experienced food insecurity, which the USDA defines as a household that had difficulty at some point during the year providing enough food for all its members due to a lack of resources. That figure was the fifth-highest rate in the nation, up from 14.6 percent for the period from 2004-2006. According the report, the national rate from 2007-2009 was 13.5 percent.
OPI director David Blatt pointed out in his blog (okpolicy.org/blog) in November that, give or take a few thousand people, the number of people in Oklahoma who suffer from food insecurity could fill the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, which has a capacity of 82,122, and Oklahoma State University's Boone Pickens Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,218, four times over.
"Given Oklahoma's total population of 3.7 million, and assuming that households experiencing food insecurity are the same size as the average of all households, this means that some 560,000 Oklahomans live in households that struggle with access to adequate food," Blatt states. "To get a clearer sense of how many people this is, imagine that on a Saturday afternoon this fall, the population in households that experience food insecurity in Oklahoma were all invited down to Norman and Stillwater to attend the football games."
Blatt recommends contacting the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma at 585-2800 or the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma at (405) 972-1111 to learn more about ways to help fight hunger and food insecurity in the state.
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