By RON PETERS
Tulsa County Commissioner
Of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, Tulsa has the only county operated park system in the state. While at times it may be hard to distinguish a city park from a county park, generally county parks are designed and operated to be multipurpose with numerous activities offered for all ages which draws millions of people every year.
When the county park system first began, citizens of Tulsa County were very fortunate to have two Tulsa families step forward to donate land to be used exclusively for park purposes. It was the hopes of the LaFortune and Chandler families that these dedicated parks would make public access easy no matter where you lived in the county. Later, the county added O’Brien and Haikey Creek parks. The goal wasn’t to have as many parks as possible but, rather, to have a few very good “super” park facilities offering a wide choice of recreational and healthy activities.
Whether it is Haikey Creek near Broken Arrow and Bixby, O’ Brien near Owasso and Collinsville, Chandler near Sand Springs or La Fortune in the heart of Tulsa, everyone is just minutes away from some of the best recreational facilities in the state of Oklahoma.
Under the steady professional leadership for almost 40 years by Parks Director Richard Bales, the county park system provides a wide choice of outstanding recreational and healthy opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else in Oklahoma. Collaborating with Richard is the Citizens Advisory Board lead by some of Tulsa County’s finest citizens.
Whether it’s tennis, golf, running and walking trails, ball fields, soccer fields, swimming, community or recreation centers, the parks department staff is always taking care of these important public assets and promoting healthy programming in both natural and developed environments.
Many consider LaFortune Park the crown jewel of the county park system. No other park in Oklahoma provides the high quality facilities and grounds like LaFortune. The nationally recognized Case Tennis Center now draws tennis players, teams and tournaments from across America with 21-lighted outdoor courts and 3 indoor courts. It’s no wonder it was awarded the United States Tennis Associations’ “Outstanding Featured Facility of the Year” in 2018. The recently completed $3 million renovation of the 18-hole par 3 golf course, with lights for night playing along with the 18-hole championship course makes playing golf possible all year long. Add in the trails, picnic facilities and swimming pool and there is something for everyone of every age at LaFortune.
The recently opened splash park in Chandler Park drew hundreds of children on opening day. It is the largest splash pad park in the state of Oklahoma with over 30 water features and 3 water slides. This is just the latest feature in a park that also has rock formations for climbing, baseball complex, picnic shelters, an 18-hole disc golf course and a gorgeous panoramic view of Tulsa and Sand Springs. And Chandler Park is the only county park facility that is solar powered.
For those in north Tulsa County, O’Brien Park has the county’s only golf training center to complement the ball fields and green spaces. Perhaps the most popular attraction at O’Brien is the Victory Garden. In an effort to combat health concerns due to poor access to fresh produce in North Tulsa, the parks department establishes a community garden. The Victory Garden is the only teaching/community garden in the park system. The goal is to educate participants in the “seed to table” process and send them home with the tools to start a garden in their own backyard or neighborhood.
The citizens of Tulsa County have lots of parks to choose from. What’s important is to provide individuals and families with a safe, clean and well maintained area that offers activities for all ages and abilities. The Tulsa County park systems is the best in Oklahoma when it comes to parks and recreation.