River Parks Authority, a public-private trust in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has announced a $350 million gift from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and local donors that includes land, design, and construction costs for A Gathering Place for Tulsa, a Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed park to be built along the city's Arkansas River waterfront.
A project of GKFF, the park will transform nearly a hundred acres into a recreational gathering place featuring a five-acre playground, a lodge for community events, interactive water play areas, a boathouse, green spaces for recreation, and two land bridges that will connect the park with the broader River Parks system. The first phase of the project involving 66.5 acres is scheduled to be completed by late 2017.
Under the agreement, GKFF will transfer ownership of the land to the River Parks Authority. In turn, the parks authority has agreed to enter into a hundred-year self-perpetuating agreement with a dedicated GKFF entity to manage the long-term operations, maintenance, security, and programming of the park. Gifts in support of the planned park include $10 million from the Chapman Foundations and $5 million each from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the F.W. Murphy Family Foundation, the Helmerich Trust, Magellan Midstream Partners, Nadel and Gussman LLC, Charles and Peggy Stephenson, Bob and Debbie Zinke, and Joe Craft. The previous largest gift to a public park in the U.S. was the $100 million donated to the Central Park Conservancy by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson in 2012.
"This generosity is likely the largest public park gift ever made," said Matt Meyer, executive director of River Parks Authority. "The immense generosity of GKFF and community donors brings a unique opportunity to partner with the foundation to manage, maintain and improve the park for many years to come. City and County citizens will experience the benefits of our transformed riverfront for generations."