Sunday, January 16, 2011

A true neighborhood asset in J. Park

Dear OKC Parks & Recreation,

I cannot rave enough about the tennis courts in Goodholm Park, they are a true neighborhood asset. There is nothing like decent neighborhood tennis courts to bring people out of their houses. Actually, I can't rave enough about all of Goodholm Park in general. It is one of the city's best parks. It is urban, surrounded by a dense neighborhood, it has a very well-defined (and somewhat irregular and interesting) space. The orientation of the neighborhood all around it is perfect (cute bungalows across the street to the west and north, great rowhouses across Robinson to the east). It has a great walking trail that goes all along the perimeter, you always see people jogging or taking a stroll. Great playground that is always well-used. The field also gets well-used by people walking dogs. It's just a great space, an example of what we don't have enough of.

The name is a little confusing. When you say Goodholm Park in the Jefferson Park neighborhood most people are kind of lost, so perhaps it should just be Jefferson Park, which would make sense to me. But if the city should take any action, IT SHOULD BE TO CREATE MORE SPACES LIKE THIS!!!!!!! There are too many underutilized and neglected parks just like this. Restoring those, putting in nice things like the well-maintained tennis courts, playground, and walking trail..would not only be a boon to the community, but it would inject these neighborhoods with life and vitality. I assure you that the condition of Goodholm Park has a lot to do with the boom in renovations the J. Park area has seen.

Lastly, tennis courts. Tennis courts in OKC are absolutely pathetic, and I say this as someone who really enjoys playing tennis. I took the above picture last week when we had a period of really amazing weather. Sometimes we get that in the winter, and when it happens, it really draws the people out of their houses. You'll notice there are a lot of individual courts here, all of which are being used. Actually Goodholm Park has the best backboards in the entire city in my opinion, which is important because you don't always have someone you can play with, and you can occasionally meet new people if you share the backboards, which I always end up doing.

Every time I visit these tennis courts, I find myself overwhelmed with a sense of community. The J. Park kids actually seem to have a hierarchy that's developed around the tennis courts, and I've observed that they have a system where grown-ups go there and teach the kids how to play tennis. The residents around there take care of the courts and keep skateboarders off of them. Actually I've never seen a skateboard on those courts, ever. Nothing against skateboarders, in fact, I think the city should add another skatepark since the one on South Robinson was a hit.

The reality is that OKC is the fattest city in America. Fattest, not phattest. It's been that way 3 out of the last 4 years, actually. The city has all these nifty PR campaigns to encourage people to lose weight, and there's even a City of OKC official diet program. Sponsored by Taco Bell.

Obviously we aren't serious about having a healthy city, because there is no other ostensible conclusion. We don't invest in parks. Most of OKC's parks are pretty pathetic. If they do have tennis courts, which is an extreme rarity, they are likely crumbling and then if they have backboards, another rarity, they're probably rotting wooden pieces of crap. Furthermore, we don't have sidewalks. We still aren't adding sidewalks, and don't even tell me about $10M in Maps3 for sidewalks, that's a joke. Walkability in OKC is a laughing stock. I see people get ran over all the time in the denser parts of S. OKC. I even myself come close to running people over, and I feel really guilty about that, but here's the reality: There's NO PLACE for people in OKC. Streetcar will help revolutionize the pedestrian experience downtown, and that's great, but I am not talking about downtown..I'm talking about the other 90% of our city.

Sidewalks. Neighborhood parks. Tennis courts. Skateparks. Trees. Walking trails. Not phony PR campaign diets sponsored by Taco Bell that the city needs to just terminate (before doing more damage by deluding people into thinking fast food is a "diet"). This is quality of life I'm talking about. QoL is NOT just how long you have to sit in traffic, how easy it is for you to get symphony tickets, or how attractive your community is. There are things in your environment that will directly affect your physical health, period. This city's residents are the most morbidly obese in the nation, so what does that tell you about QoL?

Furthermore, why do people even live in OKC? Oklahoma City city limits that is. In most cases, the reason someone might live in Dallas rather than Lewisville is directly because of QoL. Access to amenities, schools, jobs, and healthy lifestyle choices. Dallas is obviously tops in the Metroplex for that because it is the central city. Quality of life is the business of central cities. If you live in Gallatin, TN, you're not going to have tennis courts nearby more than likely, because you made the decision to live in a white bread cookie cutter suburb of Nashville. If you lived closer in, you'd probably have every QoL amenity you could think of, including tennis courts within walking distance. This is what we've come to expect in every central city of America.

So what is the difference between living in OKC proper and Moore or Yukon? As it is there is none whatsoever, aside from distance to downtown, and if that were vital, Del City would be a top-tier suburb.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, its a great neighborhood, minus the homeless, drug dealers, burnt out abondon buildings, and abundance of section 8 housing and the scum that it seems to attract.

By the way I live in the neighborhood so don't tell me I am some white bread suburban jerk.

NR said...

Yeah, I would say that language is unnecessary. You don't need to look much further than the facts to tell J. Park is a good neighborhood, and that includes a simple drive or stroll through the area. Yes, it's an inner city neighborhood, and it has a very strong mixture of upscale properties and some government housing. Drug dealers? Burnt out abandoned buildings? Where?

The facts reveal that crime in the neighborhood is also waaay down from the 90s when it used to be one of the highest-crime hoods in the city. But the same can almost be said for Mesta Park which was mostly abandoned during the oil bust.

Today every block in the neighborhood features many newly renovated or reconstructed properties. I think it's finished turning the corner, but that may be up for debate.

Anonymous said...

If want to see the derelict properties just take that pleasent walk down Robinson and look to the east side of the street. Better yet go down 24th towards Walker to enjoy the abondon lots and section 8housing. I am not saying the neighborhood does not have potential but I would not call it the model for what OKC should be doing.