By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — The Moore City Council and the Moore Parks Board met Monday night in a special joint session to review architectural plans for a major destination park. The new park will be a mile in length starting at Southeast 4th Street on the north and running south with Broadway Avenue as the west border.
“We think we’ve really hit a home run with this, not only with what it will do, but with what it can do in the future,” Moore Parks Director Todd Jenson said.
The proposal includes an amphitheater that will seat 2,000 people, covered pavilions for the farmers market, a new community center, an aquatics center, a play space, a large lake and two miles of walking trails.
A voter referendum provides funding for those key items as well as for two parking lots, but the overall vision for the park is generational in scope with space for future development, according to Jenson and representatives of Tap Architecture, RDG Planning & Design, and Cardinal Engineering of Moore.
The dream for this park, which City Manager Steve Eddy has called a “game changer,” was born out of a bigger vision known by the acronym PATH.
Moore Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan — PATH 2022— documents a vision for Moore’s future that includes parks, aquatics, trails and health.
This plan is based on input from nearly 1,000 Moore residents. PATH was developed in 2011 and adopted by the Moore City Council on Feb. 6, 2012.
In November, voters approved two measures to provide parks funding: authorization for $25.1 million in general obligation bonds to fund a major destination park and a quarter-cent sales tax to run from April 1 through March 30, 2017, to pay for improvements to existing parks.
The open field proposed for the “major destination park” is a site that represents Moore history well, said Anthony McDermid, project leader, of Tap.
“I love the story of Moore,” McDermid said.
From 10,000 BC through the 1800s about 30 million bison migrated from Texas to Manitoba through Oklahoma’s tall grass prairie. Between 1850 and 1880, that became the Chisholm Trail and cattle followed the same bison trail north from Texas to railheads in Kansas. By 1882, the railroad had begun to follow that same trail.
The Land Run in 1889 opened up the state to settlement, and Moore was incorporated in 1893 using the name of a railroad worker who lived next to the tracks in a boxcar and painted his name prominently on the side. Once named Verbeck, the town officially became Moore.
In 1934, Moore covered 20 blocks centered on Main Street and Broadway Avenue in an area now known as Old Town. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Interstate 35 connected Moore to the rest of the United States.
Since that time, Moore has experienced growth — at times robust growth — first as a bedroom community and more recently as a major city in its own right.
The future site of the new park incorporates features of that history with open green space and the nearby railroad. Vegetation and physical barriers will separate the park from the railroad and keep children safe, but McDermit said the historic significance of the site is important.
He said at some point, Moore may want to document that history in a series of plaques or markers along the walking trail.
The north entry of the park will be a major attractor and, at some point in the park’s development, will include formal gardens, picnic shelters and possibly a water feature.
The trail that meanders through the park eventually will connect with the trail along Broadway, giving walkers and joggers a two-mile loop. Walkers will experience a lot of different things along the trail, including an unusual bridge that curls like a snake across the sizable lake at the heart of the park.
The new community center will be twice the size of Moore’s existing community center and have more gym space and an indoor workout facility.
An aquatic center will have a swimming pool, splash pad area, lap lanes and water park features such as slides and a lazy river. A nice play space for kids will be near the south entrance, while the amphitheater and farmers market will be near the lake toward the center of the park.
There will be multiple points of access and two parking lots on the east side of the park. Covered shelters near the lake will be great for family reunions and other gatherings, architects said.
The farmers market will be comprised of large, outdoor, covered canopies that also can serve food vendors or retail vendors during large events at the amphitheater. The open-air canopies allow room for future growth. Indeed, green space throughout the park allows for future growth in several areas including the community and aquatic centers.
The south end of the park will be preserved for future development and architects recommend using reconstructed prairie or a grass mix that only needs to be mowed a couple of times a year. City council and parks board members talked about keeping the grass mowed for sports activities and frisbee or planting some trees as a sort of tree farm for Moore’s many parks and outdoor facilities.
While the tornado caused setbacks in the time frame, McDermid said dirt work should start in spring 2014.
While the picnic shelters and some of the other features are not included in the GO bond funding, Mayor Glenn Lewis said he expects to get significant money from Housing and Urban Development to help with parks because of the tornado. Architects said extra money could certainly bring the vision to life more quickly.
On Aug. 6, the Parks Board will consider recommending the architectural plans to the council for adoption.