Friday, March 28, 2014

John H. Saxon Jr. Memorial Park

You may have noticed something happening on the South side of highway 9 just East of the USPS training center. It appears as though someone has plowed a big trail through the brush and trees out there.  Turns out that the City of Norman is working on a new park, John H. Saxon Jr. Memorial Park.  This park is going to be a big deal.

Google's satellites had not noticed this change yet, so I took to the trails during my lunch break to find out what exactly was going on over there.  I parked suspiciously at the end of John Saxon Blvd, which dead-ends into a dirt access road leading in the general direction of the activity.  The park is located about a third of a mile East, behind a metal walk-through gate, surrounded by a barbed wire fence.  Just beyond the gate lay a cinder gravel track, as wide as a single lane road.

As a runner in the city of Norman, I seek out the softer surfaces like dirt trails and non-paved paths like these.  I don't believe we have enough of this in our fair city so I was happy to see it.  I ran the entire system as it is now.  I would descibe it as a 1.3 mile outer loop encompassing various interconnections which could be used to create loops of different lengths.  All are the same quality wide cinder trail, mostly flat with a few smaller hills.  It is about 40% wooded and 60% open grassland.

My GPS data, I tried to hit all possible trails

The city has already done a lot of work where the trail is concerned.  They have added several culverts over the stream that meanders through the property.  There is some minimal trail errosion from the recent rain, but I'm sure they will make adjustments to the drainage to prevent that as it becomes apparent.

Researching the proposed park on the City of Norman's website, I found the park proposal here:

I will say that the City should do a little better job advertising work like this, even a sign along highway 9 would probably suffice, because this is going to be a major asset to the area and things like this make me very happy to live here.  The proposal shows that official park entrance will be off 36th Avenue, not the access road I traversed.  The stream will become a small lake, there will be pavilions, playgrounds, fitness stations with commercial quality outdoor equipment (I read that as pull up bars and things along those lines).  It looks like another paved loop will be created to the south of the loops I ran but there is nothing there yet.  In short, this is going to be a great family friendly destination for a nice weekend day.

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to see Norman doing.  It's a good addition to the standard city parks that are scattered about Norman, and very complementary to the slightly more technical and wild Sutton Wilderness.  I would love for Norman to somehow connect everything now.  We have pieces here and there, and even some non-road interconnectivity like the Legacy Trail system along the central corridor.  I imagine a future where you could pack your bag with running shoes and frisbees, take off on Saturday morning on your bike, hit all the trails and parks and frisbee golf parks in Norman, refuel along the way at waterstops, and do it all with minimal road travel.

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