“We have been planning this project for a while now,” said Micah Siemers, the city’s director of engineering. “We have a nice park here, and we want to make sure that people can enjoy it for years to come.”
The years wash away
Located on the corner of Locust and Price roads, Jo Allyn Lowe Park is a 31-acre, city-owned property that was established in 1980 and named for the founder of the Bartlesville Boys’ Club. It includes a large arboretum with hundreds of varieties of trees, the historic G.L. Potteiger Cabin (built in the late 1920s), two picnic shelters, a monarch butterfly garden, a fishing pier and plenty of waterfowl. It is a popular spot for walkers, joggers — as it connects to the Pathfinder Parkway Trail system — and nature enthusiasts as well as those who want to plant a tree in honor of a lost loved one.
However, it is that popularity and those expressions of love that have contributed to the erosion issues in the park over the years and why it is important to remedy that situation before it gets worse. According to Siemers, erosion in Jo Allyn Lowe Park is worse than in other area parks in part because of the huge tree canopy, the wildlife and foot traffic, which inhibits new grass growth.
“We’ve tried to relocate the geese to Lake Hudson (near Salina) but that doesn’t work. They come back eventually so it’s an uphill battle,” Siemers said. “The geese also like to eat the new grass as it comes up, which doesn’t help.”
In addition, there is a downhill slope from the parking lot to the lake and when it rains on that slope — without a solid grass root system to hold the soil in place — the topsoil washes away, leaving exposed tree roots.
“Foot traffic ruins whatever grass is left, and all you have remaining is bare dirt,” Siemers said.
The project, which was approved by voters in the 2018 general obligation bond election, will extend the life of the park by opening up the tree canopy to let more light in, removing sickly or deteriorating trees, shoring up the soil, grading and establishing a strong layer of turf that can withstand wear and tear. Siemers said the city used a mix of sand, clay and loam to create a good foundation for the sod, which he feels will be more effective than the seeding efforts of the past.
“Bermuda grass is a little more hardy than other varieties and is easier to establish, but it needs sunlight, which is why the canopy had to be opened,” Siemers said.
At $40,000, the budget for the Jo Allyn Lowe Park project is small, so to make the money stretch while getting the job done, city crews have managed the trees and the new soil foundation while a Tulsa firm laid the sod after grading was completed. However, the city still needs to determine how to handle the parking lot drainage issues that also contributed to the erosion in the park. Presently, all options are on the table.
“Right now, we are cooperating with one of our larger employers to create a low impact solution that will help alleviate erosion caused by rain runoff,” Siemers said. “We are considering biosoil or a rain garden to mitigate some of the erosion that has impacted the park, but we are still working out the details of what that solution might be.”
Siemers said the Bartlesville City Council, led by Mayor Dale Copeland, has been very park focused for the past five years and has been willing to invest funds to make the parks more enjoyable for residents and guests of the community. In 2018, it approved the Lee Lake Complex along Adams Boulevard to be the location for a $375,000 community skate park. It also established the Tower Green Design Committee to create The Tower Green — a $1.75 million outdoor venue that would include a performance stage, water features, art installations and greenspace between the Price Tower and the Bartlesville Community Center. The Jo Allyn Lowe Park project was part of this emphasis on park development. “Mayor Copeland has really been gung ho about making our parks the best that they can be, and he realized that this (the erosion problems at Jo Allyn Lowe Park) is something that needed to be dealt with in a permanent way rather than putting a Band-Aid on it and hoping for the best,” Siemers said. “Sometimes it just takes that one person to get behind the idea and make it happen.”