Celebrating OKCís urban gardenPublished: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record
This week the Myriad Botanical Gardens & Crystal Bridge celebrates its 30th anniversary. The organization is hosting a public open house on Sunday, the exact date it opened its doors in 1988.
It is hard to imagine the Myriad Gardens as anything except the vibrant center of downtown Oklahoma City. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors explore the gardens, attend outdoor events, take education classes and simply enjoy nature. But just like nature itself, the Myriad Gardens has endured challenging seasons. Its history and the rich, colorful place we all enjoy today are testaments of Oklahoma City’s resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
In 1977 the city broke ground on the downtown gardens as part of a downtown revitalization plan. While some city leaders could see the vision and the potential of the gardens, there were several vocal opponents who thought that the venture was too costly and taking too long to build. The oil bust, and the failure of Penn Square Bank in 1982, threatened the continued construction. According to the Myriad Gardens’ anniversary video, “there was only enough money to build the support beams for the Crystal Bridge itself.”
A civic leader and longtime champion for the Myriad Gardens, Dean A. McGee, wasn’t going to let this vision languish. He led the effort to privately raise the $1.3 million to finish the Crystal Bridge, which opened 30 years ago this weekend.
When the Myriad Botanical Gardens needed a significant makeover in 2011, Larry Nichols, co-founder and former chief executive officer of Devon Energy, came up with the creative solution of using part of the Devon World Headquarters Tax Increment Financing District funds. Today the Myriad Gardens has new community features and upgrades such as an ice skating rink, amphitheater, children’s play area, dog park, new walking trails and lighting. These improvements have greatly increased the number of people who come downtown to play and visit and enhanced the quality of life.
Our newest downtown park, Scissortail Park, is under construction using MAPS 3 funds. The Myriad Gardens Foundation will be responsible for the programming of that space, which will be critical to the success of the entire area. As we have seen from the growth and rejuvenation of the Myriad Gardens, we will be celebrating these two impactful public spaces for decades to come.
Cathy O’Connor is the president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.