Former sand pit to be reborn as city park
OKLAHOMA CITY – A former sand pit in northeast Oklahoma City will be reborn as a 400-acre public park this fall.
About half of that area will be a lake that can be fished once the city’s Game & Fish Commission finishes stocking it, Parks Department Director Doug Kupper said. Hiking and bike trails have already been cut through the surrounding trees and a pedestrian bridge built over one of the inlets.
Dolese Bros. is responsible for the reclamation at NE 50th Street and Midwest Boulevard, directed by Tom Dupuis, the company’s environmental department manager. Dupuis said the Prairie Park project has been a lot of fun to oversee, although he is saddened that it also means one of the company’s contracts is at an end.
Dolese purchased an existing sand mine operation from Nova Sand in 1997 and obtained a permit for removing sand from the state Department of Mines the next year. By the time the company terminated operations in 2016, Dupuis was already working on reclamation as per the lease agreement with the Oklahoma City Riverfront Development Authority.
Dupuis said that as the company dredged the land and processed the silica for sand, the growing hole naturally filled with water from the local water table and rain runoff; it will not require diversion from the North Canadian River, which bows around the lake. Kupper said the riverfront provides a lot of park design options his staff is studying.
One of the key elements in Dupuis’ work was to adjust the slope of the sand pit to avoid sudden drop-offs; the new bank grade disappears into the water at a three-to-one ratio.
“In addition to the hiking trails I’ve put in, I also built a low-water crossing to get from one side of the water body to the other,” Dupuis said. “And I graded out and leveled space so the city can go back in one of these days and construct a couple of baseball diamonds. I’m in the process of getting vegetation to grow now – seeded with Bermuda (grass) that’s coming up just fine.”
An example of how successful such a reclamation effort can be is found at Dolese Youth Park, across the street from Putnam City High School on NW 50th Street. The park now has a disc golf course, baseball fields, walking trails and fishing.
The cost of reclamation, including bridge construction, seeding and sprigging trees, watering and material disposal, totals $600,000, Dolese reported to City Hall.
Kupper said opening the park will depend largely on how quickly he can confirm staffing for maintaining the property.
“We’re looking forward to having that puppy open for the public, that’s for sure,” Kupper said. “It’s the first major regional park we’ve had in a long, long time. Obviously, Scissortail Park is going to be a significant park in the downtown area, but out in Ward 7 to the east, this is a pretty important addition.”
By comparison, the MAPS 3-funded park downtown will be 70 acres total with about 3 acres of water surface.
This story was originally posted on journalrecord.com on May 9.