The city intends to use MAPS 3 money to build a 70-acre urban park south of downtown, but there's no money in the taxpayer-funded development program to operate and maintain it. A recent study suggests Oklahoma City could use a private foundation to raise funds to run the park and not squeeze the city's general fund.
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation commissioned the study, which was released in June and led by Steven C. Agee, an economics professor and interim dean of Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business. Larkin Warner, professor emeritus of economics at Oklahoma State University, and students from OCU's Economics Research and Policy Institute assisted.
The study's comprehensive review of the city's park system examined how the renovated Myriad Gardens and MAPS 3 urban park will be incorporated into the city budget, along with analyses of the role of parks in Oklahoma City as demographics change and the park system itself.
The study estimates the new Myriad Gardens and MAPS 3 park will cost nearly $6 million annually.
The foundation's desire for the study grew in part from concern other parks could be neglected if the city had to stretch its budget to pay for the new ones, Agee said.
“They're going to have to do some real careful budgeting, but I think they do that,” Agee said.
The existing Myriad Gardens Foundation could morph into a new foundation that would raise private funds to help operate the gardens, the MAPS 3 park and the nearby and much smaller Bicentennial Park, the study said. The city could assign employees to the new foundation, which could also use its own employees to serve the parks.
The city hasn't committed to a way to fund operation of the parks, but Wendel Whisenhunt, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the proposed foundation would be similar to other arrangements for city parks.
“We've been pretty successful in finding partners when we've built a new park project,” Whisenhunt said.
We've been pretty successful in finding partners when we've built a new park project.