Reflections Of A River

· Interactive Splash Pad. Here, 19 computer-controlled “choreoswitches” cycle on and off, producing a show that is exciting to watch and a blast for the kids to play in. Each nozzle is independently controlled and capable of producing multiple effects, which allows the fountain to be programmed so that children are constantly wondering what will happen next, and where the water will come from.

According to the master plan, the new plaza is anticipated to be the first of two phases of park improvements designed for the overall 41st Street site. A second phase will add more natural elements, including a meandering stream created from an existing drainage-way with rocky islands reflecting the character of the Arkansas River.

A Tribute To Waterways

“Cities born along rivers have taken a more proactive approach to reconnecting with their waterways,” says Wong. Waterfront settlements like Tulsa, now a burgeoning city of 1 million people, were once integrally connected to their rivers as the main mode of transportation and the lifeblood of the town’s commerce. And while today’s modern metropolises don’t rely as much on their rivers, people have a natural longing and interest that makes parks, waterfront developments and other interaction points an important attribute of city life.

For kids, there’s no better way to connect than to a fountain.

Other river cities have developed kid-friendly water features to enhance their parks, including San Antonio’s Main Plaza, its central gathering place. Even this city, famous for a meandering riverwalk, found that an interactive water fountain in its central park gives kids and families an easier, safer water connection.

Fountains add a distinguishing element for neighborhood parks and community-wide plans, including other recent projects by SWA Group in Mountain House near Sacramento, Calif., Aliana in Houston, and Woodbury in Orange County. Water features have also helped humanize the concrete-and-steel nature of dense urban settings, such as Firewheel in Garland, Texas, Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and PPG Plaza, Pittsburgh, Penn.

While some of these communities developed miles from major bodies of water, Tulsa has never really lost its connection to the river, witnessed by its extensive park system.

Features With A Focus

41st Street Plaza is also providing an important new feature as a central gathering place for the city, and was designed in conjunction with Tulsa River Parks’ $12.4 million dual-trail projects, which were under construction simultaneously with the plaza.

The design of the signature waterfront park was a collaboration that began with the conceptual work of lead designers SWA Group and design-consultant Bing Thom Architects of Vancouver, Canada. Renderings were then developed into construction documents, and taken through construction administration by LandPlan Consultants, Inc. of Tulsa. The fountains–designed by LandPlan’s Michael Crumb and Keith Franklin–provided unusual challenges and innovative solutions.

One of the challenges in implementing the fountain design was the desire of the public-private committee behind the project to make the design exciting, but also have a degree of sustainability by recirculating the water.

The resulting complex pump system, and more than 6,000 linear feet of plumbing, were brought to life by fountain designer/engineers Kerry Friedman and Paul Kaus of HydroDramatics, and implemented by Crossland Heavy Contractors, Inc.

Assuring proper drainage and accommodating the sheer size of some of the fittings made it a challenge to get all the nozzles into relatively small areas. An existing 12-foot by 12-foot arched concrete drainage culvert underneath the site required some utility re-routing, leaving only 2 inches for the plaza fountain drain lines to maintain a downward slope to the reservoir.

In addition, the project’s location within a public park triggered requirements of the Oklahoma State Health Department, whose definitions did not allow any water depth for splashpads. Four of the fountains produced a sufficient volume of water to create a small amount of pooling and depth, causing the agency to initially categorize the fountains as wading pools, which have additional requirements, such as barrier fences and lifeguards. Through minor design accommodation and thorough communication, OSHD officials worked with LandPlan to create innovative play-fountains that are now a key attribute of the park.

In fact, the playground and water features are already heavily used, not just by the young children they were conceived for, but older kids and adults as well.

“People are just drawn to the moving water,” says Franklin. “Each day since the opening we have seen more and more users at the park, and we anticipate it will only become more popular as the temperatures rise and kids get out of school.”

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