News Column

Moore's Little River Park reopens as rebuilding from May 20 tornado continues

May 13, 2014

By Silas Allen, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City



May 13--MOORE -- For nearly a year, anyone who wanted to go for a stroll or have a picnic in Little River Park was out of luck.

But Tuesday morning, the park was open and groups of walkers were back on the park's walking trails.

Little River Park hasn't fully recovered from the damage it took during the May 20 tornado. But like the rest of the city around it, the park has come a long way in the past year.

The park, located on SW 4 just west of S Telephone Road, was destroyed in the tornado, which also leveled Plaza Towers Elementary, just blocks away. City officials reopened the park earlier this month while workers continue to rebuild.

A $200,000 gift from Devon Energy will help finance the rebuilding project, said city spokesman Jayme Shelton. The gift, announced Tuesday, is a part of $2.5 million in gifts the company plans to give to communities affected by the May 2013 tornadoes.

During Tuesday's announcement, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said rebuilding the park would be an important part of the city's efforts to recover from the storm.

"In our great challenges we find opportunities for renewal," Lewis said. "We are grateful to Devon for this gift that is helping make Little River Park better than it has ever been before."

Todd Jenson, director of parks and recreation for the city of Moore, said workers have rebuilt two pavilions and a restroom on the north end of the park. Although the park has been reopened for a few weeks, the rebuilding process will take years, he said.

A playground is scheduled to be installed in July. Later, Jenson hopes to see a second playground, a splash pad and more pavilions. He also hopes to see the city develop the western side of the park, which had gone undeveloped in the past.

The walking trail that winds through the park wasn't affected by the storm, Jenson said, but heavy construction equipment damaged it later. City officials hope to repair the trail and lengthen it farther into the southern and western ends of the park, he said.

The new amenities will make the park a better place for the community to gather, Jenson said, but they won't replace everything the park lost in the storm. The tornado took about 3,600 trees when it swept through the park, he said.

As the work goes on, Jenson said he's pleased to see residents using their park again. Little River Park was a gathering place for people who lived in the neighborhood around it, he said, and when it was closed, they felt the loss.

"To some people, it's almost like a part of them was missing," he said. "It's just one more step in the healing process for that neighborhood and the community as a whole."

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Source: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)


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