Functional beauty for years to come: Freese and Nichols oversees beloved Edmond park project
September’s end saw the opening of Edmond’s Stephenson Park, a much-anticipated project Freese and Nichols has led since its planning phases in 2021. Crowds gathered Sept. 29 to experience its new playground equipment, chase monarch butterflies and reminisce about the role the greenscape has occupied in the hearts and minds of families, with new amenities and hope for the sunny days of other childhoods yet to be lived.
Local parents and children have enjoyed the park since its opening in 1892, with tennis courts added in 1934 under the Works Progress Administration and multiple playscapes renovated throughout the decades.
Best known for its rocket ship slide, Stephenson Park continues to serve as a community space, even as the rocket ship itself has undergone lead abatement and found a new home as a permanent display in the nearby Edmond History Museum. Clegern Elementary School students who once raced across Boulevard for childhood games at the park are now some of the adults visiting with their children and grandchildren. One such former student would also be associated with a firm impacting its future.
“I have many memories of playing on the rocketship slide at Stephenson Park as a young child in the 70’s and 80’s,” said Tricia Hatley, executive vice president of operations at Freese and Nichols. “I recognize the impact of this project for children of all ages who continue to enjoy the space where so many Oklahomans have played, daydreamed and imagined what the future would hold. Childhood dreams have a way of coming full circle, and it is an honor for our Freese and Nichols team to be involved in something so personally meaningful. Future generations need a place to celebrate, come together and live life’s milestones. This park is one of those spots where memories are made and the improvements will enhance its safety, accessibility and usability long into the future.”
Freese and Nichols Central Plains - Transportation Principal/Vice President Brandon Huxford, who helped oversee planning and implementation for the site, agrees.
“Through thoughtful planning, with an overarching master plan, Stephenson Park will be here for generations to come,” said Huxford. “The City of Edmond capitalized on private and public avenues to make the most of the space.”
Developing a plan for stormwater was a major part of the zone’s redevelopment.
“We had to figure out if the area could serve for local [water] detention. Especially along the north side, the existing setup was somewhat ineffective. The City had us look at all the runoff, which was stored in detention, and consider what would benefit developers and the local community. There are large underground stormwater chambers near 4th Street most people are not going to realize are there but they are and they’re purposeful,” said Huxford. “That's exactly what we evaluated and that's exactly what we built.”
Parking was also added to accommodate visitors to the area as the space expands for additional dining, retail and multihome dwelling options. Construction continues on the park’s pavilion and water feature.
“Most people would look at this project and be like ‘Yeah, it's a park,’ but the point is to pause, look around and see the beauty in what was done. The highly technical crowd will notice there has been attention to detail,” said Huxford. “I would invite the public to observe its intentional design. Look at the cross connectivity; you can cross through the center and no longer have skirt the perimeter of the park. Look at the water feature and the pavilion. Look at the picnic area. Look at the playground, with its much safer surface. Consider the underground detention; that channel is designed to be a low flow channel so that water is readily flowing. Look at the preservation of the trees. If you have questions, ask. More than anything else, enjoy the beauty with the next generation.”