Tulsa’s Gathering Place Park is the Ultimate Meaning of Family Fun ⇒ On September 8, Tulsa celebrated the grand opening of Gathering Place, a new park beside the Arkansas River near the city’s Maple Ridge neighbourhood. The goal behind it, says Executive Park Director Tony Moore, is to bring together Tulsans from all walks of life so they can enjoy a shared experience. That’s not unusual—but Gathering Place is very different from the average public park in its variety of spaces and sheer scale.
The Park’s story began with the George Kaiser Family Foundation and an extraordinary dream to transform nearly 100 acres of Tulsa’s iconic waterfront along the scenic Arkansas River into a dynamic, interactive environment. Tulsans needed a welcoming, natural space where members of our diverse communities could come together to explore, learn and play. After years of planning, generous donations and input from the community, Tulsa’s dream became reality. In 2014, Gathering Place broke ground on Tulsa’s world-class park. The dream of a space to celebrate and gather along the river was becoming reality.
The park has a five-acre adventure playground for children aged two through 12, with seven different realms targeted for different age groups. Volcanoville was built specifically for toddlers and includes a padded play area with low-level climbing elements in bright colours. Charlie’s Water Mountain has a spray area, mist area, tunnels, dams and streams, and a water lab.
Accessibility was important to the park’s creators. There are 21 points to enter and exit. Long ramps allow children who use wheelchairs to access the lower levels of towers in the playground area, as well as a large elephant structure that has a slide.
“The ramps themselves don’t look like your typical accessibility points,” said Jeff Stava, the Gathering Place project lead at George Kaiser Family Foundation. “In fact, the ramps are so long and fun that able-bodied children love to run up them and down them as well. It creates an environment where children with disabilities and able-bodied children coexist in the play experience rather than being segregated.”
The park also has a sensory garden with a giant spinning boulder, and amplified voice tools that encourage kids to ask questions about the world around them.
In the middle of the park are a pond and a boathouse. Visitors can check out paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes.
A coffee/ice cream cafe and dining patio offer a range of food options so park-goers can linger over a snack or meal. The park will host festivals throughout the year with vendors serving foods from different cultures.
Closer to the parking lots, Gathering Place features a spacious skate park, designed by California Skateparks. It has beginner through advanced courses to accommodate different skill levels.
“In essence, [it’s] a mini-theme park,” Moore, the park director, told CityLab. A single day at a regular theme park can cost a family hundreds of dollars. One reason why public parks are so valuable is that locals can return to them over and over again, free of charge—as people in the Tulsa area will surely do now that Gathering Place is open.