Gathering Place, a riverfront park in Tulsa Oklahoma, has been named the “Best New Attraction in the nation” by USA Today.
Gathering Place spans 66.5 acres – and is set to expand to 100 acres. It uses over 6 million gallons of water and 80 tree species – and includes attractions such as multi-story fireplaces, an adventure playground, boathouse, sensory garden and a reading tree.
The $465 million project opened in September – in part thanks to the largest public park gift in U.S. history from the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF).
The National Comedy Center was awarded second place.
Reunifying the community
Gathering Place’s main objective is to reunify the community. On its website, it says the park is “designed to welcome all Tulsans to a vibrant and inclusive space that engages, educates and excites.”
GKFF program officer Josh Miller said: “There’s a kind of halo effect due to all the national and international press and media that the park is getting. It overall bolsters confidence in the city. This is a sort of intangible but very important piece of the park.”
Sustainability, accessibility and inclusion
Gathering Place VP of Loyalty, Amanda Murphy, noted that the three key tenets of the park are sustainability, accessibility and inclusion. Park design was provided by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and aims to be a space for everyone.
Murphy said: “Many people do not know that we have desensitization spaces for guests with sensory anxieties. People also see the large towers within our Chapman Adventure Playground area, but often do not realize that mobility impaired guests can access those towers via a ramp.”
On inclusion, festivals and concerts will be hosted to draw four key cultural demographics: Hispanics and Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans.
There are an eclectic mix of play equipment – described by MNN as “distinctly European” – including slides, swings, climbing structures, suspension bridges, sand pits and waterfowl.
The European-style was deliberate. Gathering Place Director Tony Moore said: “The [American] play element is different. It’s a more sanitized, extra-padded and very safe environment that lacks a sense of adventure. European-style play is one of adventure and discovery. These attractions are purposely designed for kids to touch, to feel, to climb, to explore.”
Image courtesy Gathering Place