Sustainability is at the very heart of our Park’s design and its mission. From inception, Gathering Place was deliberate with its environmental focus. Park designers, world-renowned landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, were intentional with their eco-friendly strategy and natural symbiotic landscape design. The fulfilment of sustainability practices is a cultural requirement in every aspect of our business and guest experience.
In addition to the preservation of as many existing trees as possible during the construction phase, an ambitious replanting program was initiated to increase the presence of trees and plants throughout the site to restore disrupted habitat and foster increased biodiversity in the developing Park. In total, 5,800 evergreen and deciduous trees, including more than 100 different species, were planted on the site. More than 8 acres of meadows were planted, mimicking the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies native to Oklahoma. These add to the overall landscape experience of the Park and also serve as important new habitat areas for local flora and fauna.
Integration of sustainability practices are willfully incorporated into the operating efficiency of the Park. An entirely automated LED lighting system with a central control panel ensures that energy is efficiently used for the Park only where necessary.
Sustainable water management was also crucial on this riverfront site. Re-circulating the pond’s nearly six million gallons of water through the adjacent wetlands not only conserves water, but also cleanses it, effectively eliminating the need for treatment of the water with chemicals. With respect to storm water, several of the Park’s larger parking lots (east of Water Mountain) have underground infiltration basins, which help to filter out pollutants. There is also a series of exposed wetland infiltration gardens on the south side of the skate park that absorb roadway runoff from Riverside Drive and also from the Park uplands.
Two 300-foot long land bridges now connect the Park to the riverfront once separated by Riverside Drive. This allows for a continuous canopy over the roadway and the safe passage for guests and animals over a busy thoroughfare. Moreover, through its careful integration with regional bike trails, the Park can be accessed from a distance through sustainable modes of travel.
The material palette for the Park and the types of assemblies and detailing used have all been geared toward durability and resilience, ensuring the Park’s sustainable performance for many years to come. Natural stone is used extensively in the Park. Thermally modified (a process which involves no environmentally harmful chemicals) ash and pine are used for bench slats, decking and light poles. Larch and black locust – both abundantly available wood species – are used for the play structures.
The Park maintenance facility is largely underground, which not only reduces its visibility but also helps to naturally insulate the building and reduce demand for heating and cooling. All of the Gathering Place buildings, including the Lodge, are sustainably heated and cooled through geothermal wells.