Mission Park Project

Tahlequah Mission Park Project committee members discussed the layout of the nature park during a Sept. 10 meeting. From left are: Wauneta Duvall, Stephen Highers, Kyle Murray, Keisha Murray, Cherry Scott and Sherelene Pratt.

The Tahlequah Mission Park Project committee during a Sept. 10 meeting discussed available resources and the next step for the nature park preserve program.

The goal of the meeting was to form community groups that would provide input, resources and support for the park. Discussion among committee members included funding, fundraising, ADA compliance and outreaches.

"This becomes automatically our largest park in the city," said Ward 3 City Councilor Stephen Highers.

The 21 acres on First Street and Mission Avenue were appraised at a value of $340,000, and the Recreational Trails Program grant provides $240,000 toward the purchase. The Recreational Trails Program grant is offered through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

Dana Boren-Boer, TMPP vice president, said the grant is allocated in four phases, starting with purchase of the property and irrigation of the land. The second phase includes the 1-mile ADA-compliant paved walking trail.

"Since the trail is in the next phase and isn't funded through the first one, then we would rewrite for that grant and hopefully we could put some verbiage in there and have some real costs," said Boren-Boer.

According to the grant letter, a pre-award inspection must be conducted at the project site before the application can be forwarded to the FHA for final approval. However, out of the seven notices of intent, four have given their feedback.

Tahlequah Planning and Development Director Clinton Johnson said he is waiting on responses from three tribes, and they have roughly seven or eight days to provide feedback.

He said approval letters from the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band are already in hand. The tribes said it was OK to push forward with their approval, since purchase of the property is the only action being taken at this point.

Those tribes want to physically step onto the property after the official purchase to survey the land.

"They're giving us approval upfront without ever stepping out on the property because nothing was in their registers that said they need to be concerned about that partial," said Johnson.

The next step is connecting with resources and devising a plan for exactly how the nature park can be built.

"All we have dedicated is money for the purchase; there are no resources allocated for any development of the park at this time, so I think the focus should be on continuing to fundraiser," said Johnson.

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