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Freese and Nichols to lead renovation effort at Edmond’s Stephenson Park
Projects of all sizes contribute to livable communities. Vital infrastructure is the result of intentional design, from utilities to planned greenspaces, with civil engineers involved at every phase. Freese and Nichols, Inc., a member of Open for Business Oklahoma, will lead the renovation of Stephenson Park, Edmond’s oldest city park, best known for its beloved rocketship slide.
The public will enjoy a new playground, an expanded pavilion, curated landscaping, better food truck access, level sidewalks and improved lighting. A parking lot with 50 spaces is also planned as an overflow area for downtown Edmond as the community continues to grow. See more project details from Freese and Nichols’ summary.
Stephenson Park is situated on Boulevard between Littler Ave. and East 4th. The green space became Edmond’s first park and land was donated as a recreation area before statehood. The Edmond Historical Society and Museum now shares the lot next door.
“Edmond citizens have enjoyed recreational activities at Stephenson Park since 1892. The park has changed its name and playground equipment a few times over the last 130 years, but its role in the community has remained unchanged,” said Edmond History Society and Museum Executive Director Amy Dee Stephens. “From picnics and baseball games to holidays and jazz festivals, Stephenson Park is in Edmond’s memory bank as a place to recharge, to connect with nature and to spend time with loved ones.”
Play equipment and a tennis court were added in 1934 along with rock walls and bridges as a project of the Works Progress Administration. Other play installations followed in subsequent decades, as late as the ‘90s, with Gulf War-era toy Jeeps featured as part of the current playscape.
Adults who attended Clegern Elementary across the street fondly recall visiting Stephenson Park after school, with the rocketship slide as a fixture of childhood fun for local families.
“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.”
Safety standards and the need for updated equipment prompted the change, according to the City of Edmond. The American Planning Association’s Oklahoma Chapter honored Freese and Nichols’ overall Edmond expansion plan with an award for excellence in 2015.
“The rocketship slide’s exact date remains a mystery but we know it was sometime in the 1960s, post man-on-the-moon era,” said Stephens. “When people talk about the rocketship park, they remember how high up it felt as children and how hot the surface of the slide got in summertime.”
The original rocketship structure will be reinstalled as a work of art in Stephenson Park, which also houses Veterans Plaza. The slide portion has already been added to the Museum as a permanent piece of its collection. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in August and “I survived the rocketship” t-shirts continue to be sold.
Freese and Nichols project managers anticipate completion in 2023.