There’s this place in Tulsa where it’s actually quiet. It’s hidden from the noise of traffic and the sound of cars. That’s important and rare in a city like this, where public transportation is lacking, bike lanes are almost nonexistent, and only small areas are walkable. Right now, this area is in danger of becoming home to a new outlet mall.
Turkey Mountain, from what I gather, has gone through many permutations. Twenty years ago it was a dark and unsafe hangout for vagrants and ne’er-do-wells. Couples parked there, people did drugs there, all sorts of terribly vulgar things happened. And unfortunately, many people still cling to that image of Turkey Mountain. I imagine that these are the same people who drive around town in Buicks with squealing belts, tossing cigarette butts out their window. Probably on their way home to their house with shag carpet, window AC units, and dirt in the front yard.
That’s unfair, I know. About as unfair as the ages old stereotype that some Tulsa residents are insisting is truth.
Here’s what I think of when I think of Turkey Mountain:
A few miles of trails where you can escape the city, even though you’re technically still in the hear of it. I don’t see vagrants or thugs here – I see fellow trail runners and bicyclers, I see families out for a hike, people taking their dogs out for exercise. I hear birds and the wind, I don’t hear gunshots or any other such rubbish.
I have hiked and run here, I have helped out with local races and escaped here more times than I can count. I have watched my dog (normally master of sad face) positively light up and crash through the brush in pursuit of pure freedom, something city dogs don’t get to experience in every metropolis.
People who are excited about an outlet mall insist it will bring money and jobs to Tulsa. They cite Tulsa Hills as an example, conveniently overlooking the disastrous Riverwalk and Eastland Mall, and the dozens of abandoned shopping areas in Tulsa. I’m sure they all started with the best of intentions, but they’re ghost towns now.
As for money…I don’t think so. Here’s a simple statistic: “For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.”* This is why I shop locally, support local events, and why I feel a little bit of my soul die every time I see a new Wal-Mart pop up. Yes, a mall will produce jobs, but it will not produce sustainable, meaningful employment and financial security for the people who take those jobs.
I’m not against outlets. On interstates, miles outside of delicate wilderness areas, they provide a great distraction on long road trips. And guess what else? We can buy ANYTHING online these days, and with the wretched economics that go along with outlet malls, it makes just as much sense to click and buy as it does to go to a big box.
This mall is not being built right on top of the wilderness area, and we opponents understand that. It’s being built close enough to cause considerable damage. This wilderness area is private property and we opponents of the mall understand that we can’t tell private property owners what to do with their land. That doesn’t mean we have no voice, opinion, or power. Not everyone cares about individuality and local business, or understands how those things work and we opponents of this mall desperately wish everyone did.
We don’t NEED another generic shopping mecca where we can go buy things to compete with out friends and neighbors. Thoreau said it best when he said this about what we truly need: “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
No, Turkey Mountain is not really wild, but it as close to it as we can get in this place. Here’s to keeping it that way.
Here’s the link to Turkey: http://www.turkeymtn.com/
Here’s a link for some info on the outlet mall: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/company-unveils-new-details-for-outlet-mall-near-turkey-mountain/article_62a0db65-09ce-5122-abe7-603a9029c24b.html