Tulsa County is a week-and-a-half out from voting on a sales tax hike to fund improvements to the Arkansas River. Supporters say improvements will beef up business from Sand Springs to Bixby. Many river supporters look to Jenks as a model of riverside potential. But could duplicate development up and down the river take away from Jenks' success? The News On 6's Joshua Brakhage reports until now, they've had a monopoly on riverside entertainment, but if the river vote passes, others will get in the game.
Jenks was so far out in front of river development they've almost run out of riverside property. After the aquarium, Riverwalk Crossing, a planned Riverwalk expansion and the billion-dollar River District development, the Jenks Chamber of Commerce is taking its next steps very carefully.
"We've got to be very particular with what we do with what we have left," Ruth Littlefield, Jenks Chamber of Commerce President said.
If the river tax passes, new low water dams would ensure there will always be water in the Arkansas River. That will be great news for businesses at the Riverwalk Crossing, but that also means Jenks could lose its competitive edge.
"If this river tax passes, I think you're going to see private development really starting to spawn," said Littlefield. "In the next three to five years, we're going to see a lot of things happening."
Supporters expect a lot of that development will be in Sand Springs, Tulsa and Bixby. If other developments spring up on the banks of the Arkansas, Jenks could be left high and dry.
"We have heard in town hall meetings for years from citizens saying, 'why aren't we doing anything with the river?' Now's our chance," local developer Sharon King Davis said.
Sharon King Davis broke ground last year on Kings Landing, across from the aquarium on the Tulsa side of the river.
"Whatever happens in one part will benefit everybody, will benefit this region!" said Sharon King Davis.
The Jenks' Chamber agrees, and says they're ready for a little competition.
"There's room for everybody I feel in this game," Littlefield said.
The Jenks mayor, city council and chamber of commerce have all endorsed the river tax. Jenks leaders say it took the spark of the Oklahoma Aquarium to attract investors to their community. The Our River Yes campaign says it feels the river tax can provide that same spark to communities countywide.