With new amenities, Kerr Park seeing more visitors
When the temperatures are tolerable and the wind speed is low, it’s not unusual to find people eating lunch at Kerr Park.
While the park was often used for lunch breaks in the past, eating there was difficult with no tables and seating only available on large rocks. The park sits directly behind the office buildings on Park Avenue, and is between Robinson, Broadway, and Robert S Kerr avenues.
But the attraction as a lunch or hangout spot changed almost a year ago after the Downtown OKC Partnership (DOKC) received a $200,000 grant through Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program. The grant is overseen and distributed by the Project for Public Spaces.
With the money, DOKC was able to purchase chairs, tables, games, and build an awning area for seating or live music. The park also has a large conference-size table for big gatherings. The furniture gets scrubbed monthly.
The next step in bringing new life to the park is exactly that, though there has been an uptick in traffic. DOKC has been counting visitors for a year. June is the first month-over-month to be collected. In June 2019, compared to June 2018, there was a 216% increase in visitors for that month.
“We have definitely seen a need for more programming,” said Jill DeLozier, DOKC vice president. “The pedestrian counter reports are interesting because it cross-tabs with the weather conditions and days of the week. On Monday mornings, Kerr Park gets a lot of traffic as well as on Thursday nights with downtown residents and employees' post-work meetups. But of course if it's really hot or raining, then the visitation goes down."
People can expect to see more events at the park, many of which will be sponsored by DOKC but hosted by the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department.
In September, DOKC is hosting a four-day bocce ball tournament. DOKC will oversee the tournament and provide snacks and refreshments. On the final day, the tournament turns into a party-like atmosphere with food trucks, a live DJ, and more lawn games.
DeLozier said the goal with the park’s renovation was to make it welcoming to everyone, even residents that are experiencing homelessness. It is not DOKC's goal to remove those residents from the park. The organization partners with City Care and the Homeless Alliance to provide services.
“As long as we keep it active and programmed for the general public, it doesn’t shine such a spotlight on people experiencing homelessness,” she said. “The intention for the park was to be inclusive. As long as the activity isn’t illegal, then we’re good with it.”
She said with Sandridge Energy and the City of Oklahoma City's Parks and Recreation Department maintaining the property and new employees moving into the Parkside Building, there will be plenty of people to keep an eye on activities in the park.
The park is open for parties, group lunches, or other activities, without a reservation. If someone wants to host a private, ticketed event, then a permit is needed, which can be sought from the parks department.