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Ties strengthen between Oklahoma River, downtown

The Oklahoma River hasn't moved, nor has downtown. But the distance between the two is without a doubt getting smaller.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: February 5, 2013

The Oklahoma River hasn't moved, nor has downtown. But the distance between the two is without a doubt getting smaller.

With prominent airing on the hit national television show “American Idol,” the era of the river being seen as a drainage ditch that needed to be mowed three times a year is becoming a faded memory.

An entire generation of Oklahoma City young professionals knows the river only as a vibrant waterway lined with “gee-whiz” rowing venues designed by modernist architect Rand Elliott.

That same generation, and plenty of relative newcomers, also has no memory of a downtown that was declared “dead” by city leaders in 1988. But even with such revivals going on, all within just a few hundred feet of each other, the existence of a highway and railroad tracks made pedestrian access between the two areas virtually impossible and vehicular access equally confounding.

This disconnect is known all too well by all who have attempted to travel downtown to the river over the past few years. But the opening of the new Interstate 40 removed the visual barriers, and the boathouses, especially the Chesapeake Finish-line Tower, can be seen by anyone walking or cruising along the Bricktown Canal.

Pedestrian connection will soon be established with an extension of a river inlet used by the Oklahoma River Cruisers at Regatta Park. That inlet, being built under the new highway and adjoining railway tracks, will create a key pedestrian connection, and a means for passengers on the river cruisers to jump off and hitch a ride on the more popular Bricktown Water Taxis.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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