More than $700,000 could pump new life into Tulsa's old and decaying parks. The funds are part of a charitable trust that the city has had since 2009. The nearly 3 quarters of a million dollars will go to three parks in areas with at-risk youths.
There are already signs of the master plan for Tulsa parks at work, but at some sites, the new swing sets and slides are overshadowed by their dilapidated surroundings.
"None of the neighborhood kids play here no more like we used to," Mark Lee.
He has watched Zeigler Park decay over the last decade, but he's not ready to give up the closed recreation center.
"People are first upset because the rec center is going away, but once you start talking through the process, they start growing with you," said Parks Director Lucy Dolman.
Dolman said the $700,000 trust will make Zeigler, Clark, and B.C. Franklin parks more open, with new splash pads, benches, tables, and some courts will be renovated. She said those three parks were chosen because the youth there are most at risk of gang activity, and because the rec centers have been closed for at least 10 years.
"We're always fixing graffiti, replacing broken windows, and trying to board things up," Dolman said.
The city is asking for community input on how to use the money. For example, the city plans to tear down the rec center at Zeigler Park, but they're asking neighborhood children what they want in its place. Students at Mark Twain School voted to replace the rec center with a fort themed playground. Dolman said the city wants similar input from the neighborhoods surrounding Clark and B.C. Franklin parks.
She said the city doesn't have the money to renovate or maintain the rec centers, but this alternative will help draw in crowds, and be safer for everyone.
"When you go in and demolish a structure that hasn't been used, you're adding new life to that community," Dolman said.
Transferring the cash still has to be approved by the city council. The Parks Department hopes to start tearing down the Zeigler rec center sometime next year.