Remembering the Big Build

Fourteen years ago our community united to build something amazing.

While our town recently rallied together for the “great cleanup of 2019,” it isn’t the first time we have come together, and it won’t be the last. Fourteen years ago our community united to build something amazing.

A recent visit to Heritage Park with our youngest daughter truly made me feel proud of our town and inspired me. Our kids know that their father played a part in planting the trees and other family members also helped build what some call “Big Build.” But, in my typical fashion of needing to know the details, I made a phone call.

Tami Fleak, who was the director of Sapulpa Main Street at that time, was kind enough to answer my questions. American Heritage Bank wanted to do something special for the community to commemorate their 100th Anniversary. The vision was for the park to be a community project. It took the team of organizers eighteen months of planning and input from Leather and Associates from New York who specialize in helping communities build custom parks. I was surprised to hear they even visited area schools and asked the children what they would like to see at the park.

The playground was an enormous venture between American Heritage Bank, the city, businesses and volunteers. It includes the space of five lots and is what some kids call, “the best playground ever!” Countless hours of volunteer labor, tools borrowed, donations and so much more came together to make the idea a reality.

There were eighteen team captains, 1,700 volunteers from firemen, churches, fraternities, teens, elderly, skilled and unskilled everyone in between. They had twenty-hour work days consisting of three shifts. Childcare was offered and volunteers were fed breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Front end loaders, dump trucks and cranes were borrowed from local businesses.

The park contains the typical slides and swings but has some unique Oklahoma touches such as paintings by artist Russell Crosby including one of Sapulpa’s founder, Chief Sapulpa. Children love the fire station, oil derrick that is a huge tower to explore, the buffalo climbing wall and more. There is a nice shaded area with picnic benches where many children have celebrated their birthday.

Four years ago the park received a ten year facelift that included eight hundred volunteers and one week’s worth of work. Sadly, Heritage Park received some vandalism a few years back breaking many of the original Frankoma tiles displaying local children’s handprints. They were replaced with new decorated tiles and the park is under 24-hour video surveillance.

Tami exclaimed, “It was a life changing experience to be a part of this. It got people out of their comfort zones and was a huge collaboration. It was the greatest project I have ever worked on, it’s a show stopper!”

The park’s life expectancy is 20-25 years and is located at 23 N. Poplar in Sapulpa next to the library. I thank all those involved from the childcare workers, donors, painters, handymen and women. This gem should be a stop for out-of-town guests and local families alike this summer. What a great way to build memories. As the plaque on top of a twisty slide reads, “Slide on down to Route 66.”

Brooke DeLong

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

About the Author

Brooke DeLong has a degree in Naturopathy and is passionate about educating and inspiring people. She is a wife and mom to four awesome kids.

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