Let's get started. That's the word from city and business leaders who have a definite plan to finally start developing the Arkansas River. It would include $277 million in sales taxes to be voted on by the people. Meanwhile, the private sector says it will give more than $100 million in donations, an amount that officials say is unprecedented in state history. The News On 6's Steve Berg reports officials are hopeful they will get the public support they need, because they say this is what the public wanted.
Tulsa Metro Chamber Director Mike Neal is a relative newcomer to Oklahoma, but he says he quickly learned how important the river is to the citizens here.
"As I give speeches and I move across the community in all parts of this region, people want to talk about river development, so I think from the public vantage point, for the last 20 years, for the last 30 years, the citizens have spoken," Tulsa Metro Chamber Director Mike Neal said.
One reason the chamber thinks the public will like it is that it follows the Arkansas River Master Plan developed by they Indian Nation Council of Governments, or INCOG. That plan was presented at numerous public meetings and received a large amount of public input. New taxes are never an easy sell, but officials hope people will be impressed by the large private contribution to the project. Neal who came to Oklahoma from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce says he's impressed by it.
"The $100 million private contribution is amazing. I've never seen a community in America, at least to my knowledge, with $100 million private investment for a public infrastructure project," Neal said.
Public money would be spent mainly on low-water dams and modifications to the river channel, so that there's always water in the river. Public money would also go towards new pedestrian bridges and land acquisition. Private money would be used mainly to revamp and widen the trail system, and to create larger, improved gathering spaces.
Lots of towns have river plans, and officials say to keep people in Tulsa they have to give them something they can't get anywhere else.
The river plan could go to a vote sometime in August.