As another year draws to a close it is important to look back at what we have accomplished to better plan our goals for the new year. While we reflected the one thing that stuck with us was how much commitment Tulsa is showing to a renewed sense of community. A deep desire to be outdoors and a measurable value in what we have. Tulsa, again you leave us happy and speechless. Thank you.
Earlier this week, cold winds whipped a wildfire that burned a large section of Green Mountain, a popular trail running and hiking area near Lakewood, Colorado. Footage of the fire was dramatic, and there were moments when people wondered if nearby homes and apartments would need to be evacuated.
Halfway across the country, in eastern Tennessee, more fires — fueled by a deep and particularly nasty drought — ravaged the wooded hills and mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, eventually surging into the popular tourist down of Gatlinburg. The results, as you may well know, were devastating: Hundreds of structures burned, including many homes and businesses, and eleven people were killed.
Investigators are still examining these fires to determine a cause. But one person, in North Carolina, has been arrested for intentionally setting a wildfire there, and there is some anecdotal evidence that the Green Mountain blaze was started by someone making a fire ring campfire high on the mountain. Officials in Tennessee say the wildfire that devastated Gatlinburg was caused by humans.
We bring this up because as it stands, northeastern Oklahoma is in a drought. There are rains expected to come within the next week, but for 2016, the Tulsa area has received 11 inches below what is normal thus far, fully a third less rain that what we typically see in a year.
— Campfires or cooking fires are not allowed at Turkey Mountain. It might be tempting to find a quiet corner of the park and roast some marshmallows, but don’t do it. It puts the park at risk and is illegal.
— If you’re a smoker, refrain from doing do at Turkey Mountain. Hot ashes, cigarette butts and discarded matches can easily start a forest fire.
— Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails, mostly out of consideration for people on foot or on bikes. But motorized vehicles can also spark fires from the heat generated by engine parts.
— Fireworks are illegal at Turkey Mountain and would be a major risk for wildfires.
— Avoid any other activities that would create sparks.
Many of you likely have noticed the charred trees serving as a reminder on the west side of Turkey Mountain. It’s critical that we take care of the woodlands at Turkey Mountain and other popular wildlands in northeastern Oklahoma. It’s even more urgent during times of drought, when tall grasses have gone dormant and are dry, and when fallen leaves and deadfall wood litters the forest floor. All of this is potential fuel for wildfires, and we certainly do not want to have a Green Mountain or Gatlinburg-type incident to happen here in Tulsa or anywhere else in northern Oklahoma.
Mooser Creek at the north boundary of Turkey Mountain has been able to remain in reasonably good condition despite encroaching urbanization. How do we know? Mooser Creek is monitored by devoted Blue Thumb volunteers. Several of Turkey Mountain’s trails twist and turn and progress north to tie into areas along the southern bank of Mooser Creek.
Tulsa’s RiverParks Authority is pleased to announce Monarchs on the Mountain, a new festival celebrating the vital role Eastern Oklahoma plays in the Monarch Butterfly migration will be held September 24th, on Turkey Mountain. The festival will take place from 10:00 am, until 2:00 pm in the pavilion area of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area near the main trailhead, 6850 S. Elwood Ave.
The day will be filled with fun and educational activities highlighting the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly, the Great Monarch Migration and the habitat of Turkey Mountain which supports a myriad of wildlife. Information will be available and plants may be purchased to help establish your own Monarch Waystation. Visitors can even make a seed ball to plant this fall. Monarch tagging will be demonstrated and butterflies will be released to join the southward migration to the Oyamel fir forests of Central Mexico. This free festival will appeal to all ages and food trucks will be on site. Come spend the day with us celebrating our unique place in the life of the Monarch!
This event is hosted by: RiverParks Authority in partnership with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition, the Tulsa Audubon Society and The M.E.T. and supporters; Sustainable Tulsa, Blue Thumb, The Tulsa Zoo, City of Tulsa, Monarch Initiative of Tulsa, Westside Y and the USFWS.
Please help us spread the word by distributing the promotional flyer and sharing our event on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/events/1049153295167427/
We’ve been blessed with a fairly mild winter, and if you go to Turkey Mountain on any given day – and especially on weekends – people have taken advantage of it. You see a lot of cyclists, runners, hikers, and even folks on horseback. Social media is peppered with folks from the Tulsa area chronicling their adventures at Turkey Mountain.
But more recently, a video surfaced showing something else. It showed someone on a motorcycle getting ready to take off down the Powerline Trail.
But second, you should understand why this is the case.
If you’re on your motorcycle or ATV, there is a strong chance you will be moving much faster than other users, even those on off-road bicycles. The likelihood of your ATV running up to other users is very high.
With most of the trails in heavily wooded areas, it is unlikely you would see someone in front of you or crossing your path until they were a few feet from you. And given the noise that comes with ATV use, you certainly won’t hear others.
The trails are almost all singletrack, meaning that they are wide enough for passage of a single runner, cyclist or rider on horseback. These tight confines make it difficult to maneuver on highly trafficked trails, raising the risk of collisions greatly. No one wants to see an accident between an ATV and a runner, cyclist, or a horse.
And finally, there is the issue of wear and tear on the trails. All user traffic has some impact on trails, but motorized vehicles tend to have the greatest impact and chew up the pathways the most. The trails at Turkey Mountain were not designed to withstand the punishment of motorized vehicles of any kind.
So what should you do?
In short, find places that are better suited for ATV use, meaning areas that are more wide-open and where the risk of running into other users is lessened.
Family and friends who own larger pieces of property can give you better options, and without the risk of potentially injurious incidents with other people. You can tear it up in complete freedom, with just you and your friends.
A number of state parks have facilities built with ATV usage in mind. Lake Murray State Park, Little Sahara State Park, Talimena State Park and Robbers Cave State Park all include areas designated for ATV use. Dozens of other sites throughout Oklahoma also offer places for motorcycle and ATV off-road recreation. So if you don’t mind a little time on the road, you can make quite a weekend of it in places that cater to you.
There are also places you can go in the Ouachita National Forest in McCurtain County. Check out the regulations for that, but be secure in knowing there are some great places to ride in some of the most beautiful countryside in all of Oklahoma.
One of the things the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition stands for is people enjoying the outdoors, and we encourage you to do so responsibly. We certainly extend this to our friends who enjoy themselves on their ATVs. But in the case of Turkey Mountain, we’d ask that people find a place better suited for the higher speeds that motorized fun can bring, and to help keep Turkey Mountain wild.
But there comes a time when you have to think bigger. The places where I run are pretty busy, and not just with runners. Cyclists, hikers and other trail users frequent my local trails by the hundreds every day, at a minimum. All that use has an impact on trails under the best of conditions. Add enough rain to the mix and trail erosion and degradation is greatly accelerated.
As of Saturday, January 2, 2016, trails are very muddy and slick. We recommend avoiding muddy trails for the sake of preserving them, and if you find yourself on a muddy trail, to walk/run/ride right down the middle of it instead of trying to sidestep. Sidestepping widens trails and increases likelihood of significant erosion.
With the stunning news that Simon Properties has abandoned the site on Turkey Mountain comes the sobering reality that there is now a 60 acre parcel of land with existing commercial zoning sitting wide open.
This is but round one. It was a hard fought battle, and people have taken notice how important Turkey Mountain is to the citizens of Tulsa. With that recognition, it is now time to step up fund-raising efforts to secure and protect the land from the threat of commercial development for future generations.
Large donations should be directed to Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition through its account at Tulsa Community Foundation: https://tulsacf.org