OKLA. CITY - There is outrage over the City of Oklahoma City's new ban on running a popular Bluff Creek, trails below the Lake Hefner Dam by Pat Murphy Park.
Runners we talked to say they were blindsided by the news after learning they would have to give up their dirt trails and find someplace else to run!
They still have access to the paved trails, but it's the dirt trails the city wants them off!
The ban extends to runners, walkers, dogs, strollers, and anyone with headphones.
Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation spokesperson, Jennifer McClintock, tells News Channel 4 a spike in reported conflicts between pedestrians and mountain bikers on the dirt trails prompted the city to put out a survey asking about 400 runners and mountain bikers for feedback.
Parks and Recreation presented the findings to the city's Trails Advisory Committee, which governs trail use in OKC and that committee came up with the final recommendation.
Trails Advisory Committee member, Richard Sallee, tells News Channel 4 the committee only suggests the changes.
“The city puts them in place,” he said. “We suggested the changes take place because of the complaints and incidents out here.”
There seems to be some confusion though over who actually has jurisdiction to ban runners and walkers.
Avid runner Mike Sullivan created a Facebook group opposing the pedestrian ban.
“This Trails Advisory Committee, I don't think they have jurisdiction to take action here,” he said.
We asked OKC Parks & Recreation spokesperson Jennifer McClintock to clarify things and again, she told us her agency did not make the recommendation on this ban.
“We are simply following [the committee’s] direction with regard to working on signage to post and we have to implement those rules.”
Mountain bikers, like Steve Schlegel, are coming out publicly against the pedestrian ban.
“I really don't consider it much of a problem,” he said. “I'm a big fan of a healthy culture, whether runner, walker, cyclists. It's public use of land.”
Oklahoma Earth Bike Fellowship is the non-profit mountain bike group that maintains the trails.
OEF President, Tegan Malone, says most of her group participated in the city’s survey.
“We were told the survey results would be looked at and they would call the different user groups together and get our input and make some recommendations on what needed to be done,” she said. “What happened was close to that, but not quite. They did the survey. They looked at the results and then had to turn the results over to the trails committee and the trails committee made a decision without getting input from the user groups, aside from the survey.”
Those opposing the ban, like trail runner Matt Wilcoxen, are asking for more time and discussion.
“The fact this has come to a head so quickly in the last few days shows that this city is becoming more active and embracing healthy lifestyles and activities,” he said. “We have to work together. We can't go straight to nuclear option. We have to find a way to work together.
So who made the final call on the pedestrian ban?
The statute says the Park Commission, not the Trails Advisory Committee, makes rules, regulations and policies for our public parks and grounds.
We plan to keep pursing answers.