From the moment the Myriad Gardens opened in 1989, it was a highlight on the list of downtown tourism destinations, and the garden’s Crystal Bridge certainly appeared in many postcards and photos snapped by visitors.
But when planning began for Project 180, the $141 million makeover of public spaces downtown, the gardens were considered a key component of the transformation.
With all of its beauty, planners summarized one thing was missing: people.
The $42 million spent on rebuilding the gardens into a 21st century urban park was funded partially through bond money approved by voters and through the Project 180 tax increment finance district established with construction of the $750 million Devon Energy Center.
Thousands cheered on the makeover when the gardens officially reopened in October with the Festival on the Green.
Visitors to the 17-acre gardens saw a new band shell lit with colorful LED lighting at night, a grand event lawn, a special event pavilion, an off-leash dog area, waterfalls, seasonal ice rink and restaurant.
Jewel of the park
The Crystal Bridge, with its waterfalls and exotic plants, remains the jewel of the park, but it now is spiffed up and boasting colorful LED exterior lighting at night.
For some odd reason, the Crystal Bridge never had a grand entrance; that, too, has changed.
The new children’s garden has interactive features such as a hedge maze, story tree, climbing play area and a splash fountain inspired by Oklahoma thunderstorms.
Visitors also saw the potential uses of the remade park — a farmers market at the pavilion, boat rentals in the lake, Zumba (a class that combines exercise and dancing) on the grand lawn, children’s concerts and storytelling on the children’s stage.
Maureen Heffernan, hired in September to oversee the gardens, believes the gardens’ future is now an open book full of possibilities.
“It’s not a traditional botanical garden; it’s open, and I like that it’s a hybrid of a garden and open park,” Heffernan said.
“I like to think what I can bring is to make the gardens beautiful and interesting so people can come here, just appreciate the beauty, but also if they want to learn, we can provide them an education on plantings, classes and other programs we want to do here. ... This space gives us the opportunity to be a beautiful botanical garden and be a vibrant space for people to enjoy.”