Crow Creek is an uncut gem flowing through the middle of Tulsa and emptying into the Arkansas River at 32nd Street. The creek runs along portions of Cascia Hall Preparatory School, through the gardens at Philbrook Museum of Art, and into Zink Park before turning west through Brookside and into the Arkansas River. This stream has natural beauty in many areas and possesses great potential. However, the creek is polluted and structurally unable to support the fish and wildlife that it should. It does not meet the Clean Water Act goal of being “fishable and swimmable.” Also, there are some flooding and bank stabilization issues along the creek.
Crow Creek was identified as a flood prone stream in Tulsa in the early 1930’s. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) completed a significant channelization and banks fortification project in the thirties. The large stone walls are still in place and functional in some parts of the creek to this day.
Of course, some areas have degraded and the impact of drastically increased runoff due to development in the watershed has taken its toll over many decades. Although public dollars have been spent attempting to maintain the creek, especially in the area of sanitary sewer rehabilitation, the work has not been sufficient to preserve its charm and character. This is especially true in the area of environmental protection which has taken a back seat to other priorities.
The good news is that actions can be taken to transform Crow Creek into a healthy resource teeming with life. The better news is that circumstances are coming together to make this goal possible sooner rather than later if we act quickly.
The Corps of Engineers and City of Tulsa have developed some preliminary aquatic restoration plans including possible access to some targeted funds. Further, A, Gathering Place for Tulsa in conjunction with other City of Tulsa infrastructure improvements, plans to replace the Crow Creek Bridge on Riverside Drive thereby restoring the mouth of the creek to improve habitat and allow fish to start migrating up the creek.
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Blue Thumb Water Quality Education Project, Tulsa County Conservation District, and City of Tulsa Save our Streams (SOS) group are committed to assisting with educational outreach for the entire watershed to support restoration efforts along and in the creek. This effort would complement potential long-term plans for a pedestrian creek corridor from Peoria to Tulsa’s new world-class park. All of this can be done while simultaneously reducing the flooding potential and stabilizing the banks.
A grass roots effort has already begun to bring together folks that live, work, and play nearby or are otherwise interested in the creek’s watershed. This group called the “Crow Creek Community” has a goal of restoring the creek to a healthy, safe, and valuable community resource. This will be achieved through a multi-pronged effort targeting the areas of impairment. The effort requires structural work within the creek, an effort near the banks including riparian buffer installation, and a wide public education program to provide pollution reducing resources to homeowners & businesses.
The time is now. Tulsans are encouraged to come together and support this unique opportunity to rediscover the gem flowing through our City. A first step is to attend the Tulsa Now Forum on June 3rd at All Souls Unitarian Church at 5:30 pm. You can influence how this effort progresses and show that this is a priority by your participation. Check out the Crow Creek Community Facebook Page for more information.