Maureen Heffernan is CEO/president of both the Myriad Gardens Foundation and the Scissortail Park Foundation. The park, planned for 70 acres, is set to open phase I this year. The Ohio native has worked in horticulture for decades, with stints in Maine, Virginia, Alaska and Europe. We caught up with Heffernan and got her thoughts on …

… Scissortail Park.

It is being built in two phases. The 35-acre Upper Park will be completed this year, with a grand opening planned for late fall. The Upper Park will have a cafe, stage and great lawn, lake and boathouse, a seasonal roller rink, large interactive fountain, picnic pavilions near a food truck area, a dog park and extensive gardens with nearly 1,000 new trees that, over time, will create a beautiful, leafy retreat in the heart of the city. The 35-acre Lower Park will open in 2021 or 2022 and will have soccer fields, a basketball court and pickle ball, along with extensive native plant and grass plantings and a smaller outdoor amphitheater and Garden Cafe. The park adds a stunning new green space to the downtown area … and serves to provide a powerful economic development catalyst for the near south side of downtown.

… her duties.

Our role now is to work to be fully prepared to take on the management and operations once construction is completed. The Scissortail Park Foundation must also raise private funds … to ensure the park has optimal funding so it’s well maintained and safe, and has a year-round variety of events and programs. We are also tasked with raising earned revenues through various park commissions and events, which will include a cafe, concert series, paddleboat and bike rentals, roller skating and rentals for individuals or companies.

… her workload.

Working on a start-up organization is definitely all-consuming in addition to the day-to-day management of Myriad Gardens, which is a 24/7/365 operation … as will be Scissortail Park. There is never enough time, so I spend about 75 percent of my time on the gardens and 80 percent on Scissortail. Somehow it balances. I have incredibly talented staff and boards that are a joy to work with.

… Tulsa’s Gathering Place.

Tony Moore, the executive director at Gathering Place, invited us to visit just prior to their grand opening last year. To say the least, it was extremely remarkable in its layers of creativity and quality of design everywhere you looked. I feel Gathering Place can’t be compared to other parks, as it is truly unique and in its own category. From a design perspective, I would say that Gathering Place is like a city in a park while Scissortail Park is a park in a city. Gathering Place’s built features – from lodges to extensive play equipment – seem to have more density of features on their acreage than Scissortail Park. Scissortail Park is more in the tradition of a grand urban park, like New York’s Central Park, with an extensive lawn, lake, walking promenades, fountains and gardens. To have Gathering Place and Scissortail Park opening in back-to-back years is a remarkable demonstration of Oklahoma City and Tulsa going all-in on investing in happiness for its citizens and visitors. The life-enhancing power of urban green spaces cannot be underestimated.

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