Reflections Of A River

The new 41st Street Plaza in Tulsa, Okla., is a water-loving kid’s dream come true, and Tulsans are water-lovers by nature, given the city’s hot summer climate and its location on the Arkansas River. The park’s innovative fountains and pools are the key to its family-friendly design, and provide a central theme for its other purpose–a main city park and a “front porch” for the whole town, as civic leaders call it.

Children frolic at this riverfront water park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The 41st Street Plaza has definitely become a popular place for families,” says Matt Meyer, Executive Director of Tulsa’s River Parks Authority. “People of all ages and demographics are enjoying this new gathering area. The state-of-the-art playground and water features are a great attraction, and we’re extremely grateful to those who made this privately-funded public improvement possible.”

The $2.8-million plaza, which opened on May 1, 2009, represents a two-year public-private effort to upgrade key areas within the park’s 18 miles of riverfront. A consortium of local businesses and foundations funded the costs of design and construction, with QuikTrip Corporation–a Tulsa-based convenience store chain–footing the largest share.

The park also celebrates QuikTrip’s first store, which opened nearby 50 years ago. “The selection of this spot was very intentional,” says QuikTrip President Chet Cadieux to the local Tulsa World newspaper.

“We wanted to build a project right here on the river.”

A Ripple Effect

The project’s emphasis on water play reflects its setting, and gives kids and their parents a way to cool down, and enjoy the riverfront setting. Designed by SWA Group, a landscape architecture and planning firm in Sausalito, Calif., in collaboration with Tulsa-based LandPlan Consulting, the park replaces a well-used playground and pavilion with almost three acres of flexible, new play equipment, areas for events and gathering, two small structures for restrooms and an open-air shelter, and grassy berms with a picnic area complementing the six unique water fountain elements.

“The project site ties into River Park’s new upgraded trails, and there are great views,” says SWA’s John Wong, principal designer for the project. “But this isn’t the kind of river that kids can play in. So we developed a series of fountains that bring the river to the kids.”

The six fountains–ranging from highly interactive to primarily aesthetic–include:

· Plaza Fountain. The main water feature has 14 aerated jets on a variable speed pump, enabling the water to dance up and down. Computer-controlled LED lights cycle on and off, and change color through the entire color spectrum for added visual interest in the evening hours.

· Stepped Fountain. Water is introduced through a stainless-steel grate before cascading down three steps and draining into a second stainless-steel grate. Six computer-controlled nozzles sequence on and off in pairs to add excitement.

· Lazy River. This feature uses four floor-mounted jets to create a current that circulates around large, round stones. The fountain is designed to allow children to float small boats in the moving water, and to experiment in changing the water flow by dipping their hands in the current.

· Bubbler Fountain. Seven nozzles emit bubbling mounds of water that spill across the crowned surface of the fountain, and ripple down the vertical sides where it is captured by stainless-steel trench drains and returned to the reservoir for treatment.

· Arching Streams Fountain. Cascades and arches of water are provided by 40 nozzles, controlled in banks of five sequences in various patterns. The computer programming allows the jets to not only cycle on and off, but also create a wave effect by quickly opening and closing the electric valve.

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