POSTED ON JULY 18, 2007:
River development must begin now, or it may never
Perception: River development was included in Vision 2025.
Fact: Though some may believe that Vision 2025 included funding to build a series of low water dams on the Arkansas River, this is not the case.
At the time Vision 2025 was passed there was no comprehensive river development plan to present to the voters. For that to have happened, the planning would have had to occur at least three to five years before the vote.
The authors of Vision 2025 knew that dams would be needed at some point and that a significant portion of the funding for those dams would likely come from the federal government. But they knew the first step was planning. The hoped-for federal dollars never materialized due to the billions of dollars of public work money spend by the federal government to rebuild four states following Katrina.
With that in mind, what was presented to the voters in Vision 2025 was river development funding of $9.5 million dollars which was divided into three areas:
1) $5.6 million went for the study and environmental analysis by the Corp of Engineers. The plan is ready for the voters to review and vote on.
2) $1.8 million was allocated for the Zink Lake Shoreline Beautification proposal.
3) $2.1 million was earmarked for silt removal and construction of a catch basin at Zink Lake.
All of these are completed or, substantially engaged.
Perception: All we would be getting out of this would be more parks and water in the river.
Fact: Most people reading this article have been to a river development somewhere. It could have been Jenks, Oklahoma City or any number of places in this country or abroad.
Every city that has developed its river has some type of mixed commercial development financed by private business and investors. River developers know how to design and construct venues which are fantastic attractions.
Many Tulsa County residents have been to Branson, Missouri and have visited Branson Landing. Recently, in an interview with Richard E. Huffman, CEO of Branson based HCW Development, he stated: "A major announcement is coming about a planned $550 million Tulsa Landing. We are planning a destination that will encompass more than 150 acres." Huffman added, "We have found the commitment [from] the city and citizens of Tulsa [who] have a true desire to redevelop the river front and we are excited about that."
There have also been local private investors like George Kaiser and Chester Cadieux who have committed to a significant financial investment that would beautify the shores of the Arkansas River and create not just parks but recreational activities in those parks.
Perception: We're rushing into this.
Some will ask, "Why now?" Those people may not realize that planning for river development has been going on for more than five years. Is every aspect of the plan nailed down?
No. Anyone who has ever had a home constructed for themselves knows that you begin with the land and a plan. You get bids for the construction and eagerly watch as the lot is cleared, the foundation is poured and the framing begins. If you are extremely lucky, you haven't had to make any changes up to this point. However, there will be numerous changes along the way. Some may be small, a "tweaking" if you will, but some will be much larger.
If it's impossible to construct something as basic as a home without making numerous changes, it only makes sense that changes would have to be made as development progresses when you have a project as large as 42 miles of river development.
If you believe we should wait because the cost of developing the river will be the same or less at some point in the future; and if you know for certain that the $100+ million of charitable gifts will be available in several years; and if you are convinced that whoever is in the White House and Congress in the future will have the funds and/or inclination to support our development; and if you are quite certain there will always be a Branson Landing type developer waiting in the wings, then you probably should vote "No".
And if you do know all of these things, perhaps you also know the next winning Power Ball numbers.
There will always be those who feel there is no good time to ask the citizens to financially support public improvements. And the argument can always be made that we have more pressing needs. However, now seems to be the Age of Aquarius for Tulsa County. Though I can't vouch for the alignment of the Moon and the Stars, I can outline the pieces that have incredibly fallen into place in the past year or so:
1) The research, the engineering, evaluation and the public opinion meetings for river development have been completed;
2) We have private commitments of more than $100 million;
3) We have at least one very interested party who wants to privately fund and develop a major commercial development on the river.
Given all of the pieces that we know are in place at this time for river development and given the uncertainty of when or if these pieces will ever be in alignment again, it's up to the citizens of Tulsa County to decide if this is the right time.
Is this the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius for Tulsa County?
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