Crews Begin Transforming Landscape At Tulsa's Gathering Place

Friday, June 12th 2015, 8:36 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The transformation of the landscape is underway at Tulsa's Gathering Place as major dirt work started this week.

It's not just digging a pond or building a berm, the project includes scraping off all of the topsoil, hauling it out to mix it and improve it then haul it all back in.

If you just pass by the Gathering Place on Riverside Drive, you can't really see what's happening.

It's screened off, but just beyond the fence there's a long and bumpy road into the site where project manager Jeff Stava gave us a tour.

It's buzzing with bulldozers, and loaders and dump trucks, and it's just the beginning.

Special Coverage: A Gathering Place For Tulsa

“The first thing we're doing is getting all of the organic matter off. The second thing is we're starting on the pond,” Stava said. “So, we'll get the pond built and start with the two buildings, and that's essentially how construction will go between now and early fall."

But it's much more detailed than that.

Bulldozers are scraping off the top layer - the grass and roots - all organic material that can't be reused.

Below that is more than a foot of topsoil and over the entire site, that layer is being dug out and hauled over to storage.

There, it's being carefully layered with drainage and aeration pipes to keep it healthy and ready to go into the recipe for high-grade garden soil.

"They mix in sandy loam and organic matter and they mix it all together so that it can sustain the plant life and tree life we'll have in the park," said Stava.

The dirt work includes digging out what's going to be the 18-feet deep Blair Pond.

Towering above it, closer to Riverside is a hilltop with swings - 52 feet above the current ground level. It's going to take more than a year to move that much dirt around and get it mixed and back on the site.

It all has to be done without harming what's there, a stand of old, tall trees carefully fenced off to protect the roots.

But those aren't the only trees being saved, trees that were cut down are being salvaged for use on the playground - cut down, but not cut up - bark stripped off and made into architectural elements.