Walk in the park, Jim & Mary Kay Niles


This past weekend was so nice that I went to grab a pair of shorts only to realize I needed to buy new shorts.

Having accomplished that purchase thanks to a 30 percent off Kohl’s coupon via my big sister, I headed to Chisholm Trail Park early Saturday afternoon to get some well-needed outdoor cardio exercise since Seth Humphrey’s Vitality Mill had already closed. Fellow park walkers were blinded by my pasty white legs, but I was undeterred.

Chisholm Trail Park has grown considerably since it was developed in the mid-‘90s. The City of Yukon secured grants that paid for expansion of the park’s impressive trail system, which connects Chisholm Trail with the adjacent Yukon City Park and Freedom Trail Playground.

One of the nicest additions to Chisholm Trail Park has been a canal system with water features and memorial benches that families have purchased to dedicate in memory of loved ones.

Near the walking trail entrance next to the park’s north parking lot is an early settlers’ monument that has five stones with engraved names of all heads of household from 1889 to 1907 in the area that became Yukon. The monument was dedicated in 2007 by the Centennial Committee and Yukon City Council.

Although I believe the walking trail is Chisholm Trail Park’s greatest feature, the most prominent attraction is probably the large gazebo on the south end. This gazebo is where the OKC Philharmonic and other musicians perform for Yukon’s “Freedom Fest” July 3-4 celebration. It is where music lovers gather Thursday nights each summer for free weekly “Concerts in the Park”.

As if one gazebo wasn’t enough, Chisholm Trail Park has two. There is a smaller gazebo and pavilion on the north side that families and groups use for picnics and other social gatherings.

For young people, Yukon’s boot-shaped park is best known for its large observation mound; great for sliding down after a snowfall. The night view atop the mound is magnificent.

I remember a Yukon Park Board meeting around 1993-94 when Clarence Wright offered to donate to the City of Yukon 50 acres of land on the south side of Vandament between the Spring Creek and McKinney Heights additions. His stipulation was this property be developed into a “passive” park with no athletic fields.

Shortly after Jim Crosby became city manager in 1994, I got in his Chevy Suburban and he drove me through the forest that would ultimately become Chisholm Trail Park. Jim shared with me his vision for Yukon’s new park.

Clarence Wright’s gift has led to one of this area’s greatest recreation jewels, a park where literally hundreds of thousands of Yukon-area residents have enjoyed taking walks, having family picnics, driving through Christmas lights, watching concerts, and viewing magnificent fireworks displays.

Over the past quarter century, Chisholm Trail Park has done much to enhance the quality of life in our community. Now that spring has officially sprung, more locals will be out enjoying the park’s trails and other enticements.

It should be noted that neighboring Freedom Trail Playground in Yukon City Park off Holly has been here 25 years!

I recall participating in several Saturday “build days” in 1994-95 when dozens of volunteers came out to turn a dream of a fully accessible playground into a reality.

I attended steering committee meetings for the Freedom Trail Playground project when plans were first developed. People like Diana Hale, Debbie Cain, Charles Bradley, Bob Schwaninger, Dee Blose, Carol Garner, and Melody Thompson were integral to Freedom Trail’s early development.

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I enjoyed visiting with Yukon’s Jim and Mary Kay Niles at the recent wedding of our editor Tim Farley to advertising executive/realtor Debbie Cook.

I didn’t realize how influential Jim was “behind the scenes” for several decades in Yukon’s growth and progress. He worked alongside other influential businessmen and developers stretching back several decades as the little town of Yukon evolved into what you see today. Jim visited retail legend Sam Walton in Bentonville, Ark. to help convince a certain store to come to Yukon.

Mary Kay is the daughter of a Yukon stalwart, H.B. Frank, who owned a Main Street variety store and is the namesake for the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s annual Citizen of the Year award. Mary Kay and Jim will have their 60th anniversary next year and Mary Kay says she wants to ride on the Orient Express to celebrate.

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In case you forgot to mark your calendar, this Thursday is the 20th annual “Taste of Yukon” at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.

Fill your plate with fabulous fare from this area’s most popular restaurants at this all-you-can eat culinary spectacular.

Yukon Parks & Recreation director Jan Scott, who brought this food extravaganza to Yukon two decades ago, reminds us that the Taste of Yukon does more than fill stomachs and spread goodwill.

Any proceeds are used to help sponsor the free summer concerts at Chisholm Trail Park, along with funds raised from Yukon Parks & Recreation’s concession sales.