Construction has begun on the latest round of recreational and economic development in Oklahoma City's Boathouse District.
A fresh trench marks the planned extension of the Bricktown Canal nearly all the way to the Oklahoma River, holes in the ground indicate the location of new riverside light posts, and a crane has begun putting up a massive new ropes course.
City spokesman Kristy Yager said the projects mark the next phase in long-range development of the Boathouse District, an area which has been a focal point of the city's since the river and canal were opened in 1999 and 2004, respectively.
“The fact that we have a river near downtown is a huge benefit to the city, and we would really like to capitalize on that resource,” Yager said.
Boaters, rowing crews, kayakers and other users of the Oklahoma River are currently bound to a seven-mile stretch between Meridian Avenue and the district's boathouse. Though the canal expansion project won't link the river to the Bricktown Canal, it will bring them within 400 feet, Yager said.
Visitors staying in hotels in the Meridian Avenue area will for the first time be able to make it to shopping, restaurants and events in Bricktown using an entirely aquatic route, she said.
“Right now you can get to this end of the river — the east end of the river — but there's no real connection to downtown, so you have to call and get a taxi or walk a long way,” Yager said. “Now, when this extension opens, all you have to do is walk a few feet.”
The $2.8 million project — including a dock, plaza and pedestrian bridge — is financed with a bond issue approved by voters in 2007. It's scheduled for completion next summer.
The river lighting project is the first of several MAPS 3 projects dedicated to development of the district. MAPS 3 plans are funded with a penny sales tax approved by city voters in 2009.
A dozen stadium-style light posts will be installed along the Oklahoma River between the Lincoln Boulevard and Interstate 35 bridges. The lights will allow for nighttime rowing and other events on the river, Yager said.
That project will be completed in May, she said.