NORMAN — The community that plays together stays together.
“Sharing joy, laughter and fun with others promotes bonding and strengthens a sense of community,” according to helpguide.org, a nonprofit dedicated to psychological wellness and suicide prevention.
Multiple sources confirm that play is crucial for the healthy development of children, and many studies indicate that play fosters creativity and productivity in adults.
It’s no surprise, then, that in a university community like Norman parks are important. In 2009, the city completed a Parks Master Plan and Community Survey to facilitate planning for the future of Norman’s parks and recreational facilities.
“One of the highest priorities indicated by the citizens during the master plan process was the renovation of the existing city parks,” Parks and Recreation Director Jud Foster said. “The survey also indicated a desire for more pedestrian trails.”
Now, the Norman City Council is piecing together a plan upgrading and expanding those community amenities.
Norman has about 65 parks and 1,140 acres of park land. Those numbers do not include Legacy Park, which has not yet been built, but do include nearly 283 acres of neighborhood parks and recreation facilities, 512 acres of community parks and recreation facilities, about 290 acres of special purpose parks and recreational facilities and 56 acres of linear parks.
Much of that park acreage is undeveloped, some of it intentionally, as is the case in Sutton Wilderness. Ruby Grant Park and John H. Saxon Park are undeveloped park land that have been designated but not developed and opened yet.
Some of the neighborhood parks are small. Consider the tiny Centennial Park, 411 W. Symmes St., which is one-fifth of an acre — likely the smallest Norman park. Other neighborhood parks such as Northeast Lions Park, 1800 Northcliff Ave., are fully developed parks with amenities.
Lions Park includes 35 acres with a playground, a disc golf course, a pavilion, 10 benches, nine picnic tables, eight barbecue grills, a drinking fountain, a bridge, a restroom and a water feature. Lions is the largest neighborhood park listed in the master plan.