NORMAN — Nowhere is the intimate connection between people and trees more obvious than at our city parks. Trees were the original infrastructure for parks. Now, pavilions and playground shade structures also protect picnickers and children.
On April 13, 2012 — Friday the 13th — bad luck seemed to hit Norman as several trees were uprooted or severely damaged. At Rotary Park, the picnic shelter also was damaged, as were park equipment and structures throughout the city.
Built by Tom Fredgren and designed by the McKinney Partnership, the new pavilion at Rotary Park is now complete. Made of moss builder stone — a natural-looking brown stone — the pavilion matches the park’s Rotary house. The landmark shelter also has a large barbecue grill. Cost for the shelter was $103,000.
“We’re probably going to build a big one like that over in Andrews as well,” said Parks Planner James Briggs. “We want identifiable architecture in our parks.”
The Andrews Park shelter will also use the same design and stone.
“It will match the WPA type stone we have at Andrews,” Briggs said. “It’s never exact, but it’s a good match.”
Up next will be the replanting of trees at Andrews and Rotary to replace those lost in the 2012 tornado.
“We have to wait until after the first frost,” Briggs said.
The Norman Rotary Club donated $5,000 to help fund the cost of the trees at Rotary park. Playground equipment also was replaced at Rotary Park, and city staff is collecting bids on a playground shade structure. Rotary is contributing to that, also.
“They give every year to the park,” Briggs said.
· Andrews Park: According to City Manager Steve Lewis, the Norman Assistance League has agreed to contribute $50,000 toward the Andrews Park shelter project as part of their 40th year celebration. The city plans to bid the project this fall and complete construction in the spring so that the shelter can be used as a part of the May Fair.
Not every project has funding yet, however. Hopes for turning some of the damaged tree trunks at Andrews Park into public art has not come to fruition because of a lack of funds. The city wants to have a chainsaw sculptor turn those trees into statues.
The trees were damaged in the 2012 tornado. Briggs said the city has been safeguarding those tree trunks and keeping them intact until the project is funded.
In recent years, the city’s parks and trees have been assailed by ice storms as well as tornadoes, but Norman remains a designated Tree City U.S.A. because of the various programs protecting and promoting trees.
“We’re in our 11th year as a tree city,” said Briggs.
· Annual Tree Photo Contest: Norman’s love for trees is also apparent in the annual Norman Park Foundation Tree Photo contest. The contest will award $3,000 in prizes this year. The foundation is seeking artistic, extraordinary and unique photographs of trees. Photographs framed per the specifications outlined on the application available for downloading at normanparkfoundation.com will be accepted between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Legend’s Times Two, 1333 W. Lindsey.
While trees are vital to the beauty of many parks, they no longer have to be the sole source of shade.
“Park school 101 is to combine man-made with natural elements,” Briggs said. “Especially where there are no trees available, it’s good to be able to produce shade where it’s needed without waiting for a tree to grow in.”
The city’s newest completed park, Monroe, has a shade structure over play equipment as does Frances Cate Park. With summer temperatures hitting triple digits at times, these shade structures increase the hours of play on park equipment and help protect equipment from the elements.
“We also just added another shade structure at Eastridge Park using a grant,” Briggs said.
Contractors recently completed the shade structure installation over the play equipment in the park. That addition, as well as the new drinking fountain at Eastridge, was funded through a Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust grant the city received in partnership with Norman Regional Health System. The grant was established to encourage healthy living and outdoor activity.
Many of the current park projects are being funded by in-lieu money freed up by a charter vote. That money was previously set aside to purchase land for parks. In cases where no land is available, the money can now be used for park upgrades.
Lewis said the diversity of funding sources and community partnerships have been a boon in improving the city’s park system.