By Conrad Dudderar
A proposal has been offered to construct an alternate route for Christmas in the Park after a Yukon elected official cited concerns about increased traffic congestion on adjacent residential streets during the holiday lights tour.
Yukon City Council Member Jeff Wootton said “numerous” people over the past three years have asked him if there is a better way for traffic to flow during Christmas in the Park, which lasts about 40 days.
Known as Oklahoma’s premier Christmas lights spectacular, the event features some 500 displays and 5 million lights across 100 acres at the interconnecting Chisholm Trail Park, Yukon City Park and Freedom Trail Park.
Wootton said he asked city administrators to study possible solutions that could help move traffic away from residential streets around the park venue – instead placing traffic on the “main streets of Yukon” and directing traffic near businesses so people “could stop and shop in Yukon.”
Long lines of vehicles around the three parks’ entrances and exits have become common during Christmas in the Park.
“I don’t think it’s right that people can’t leave their neighborhoods or even turn in or out of their driveway because of the traffic,” said Wootton, who lives just east of Chisholm Trail Park.
“We need to find a way to route the traffic that will best serve the people of Yukon and also our businesses.”
Yukon city engineer Joe Davis, at a Jan. 18th Yukon City Council study session, presented alternatives to improve vehicle circulation.
Davis shared a proposal to create a “loop” at Chisholm Trail Park – with both the entrance and exit on Vandament. Now, vehicles enter at Vandament and exit at Von Elm Avenue.
Building a new one-lane, 12-foot-wide road (or “super-trail”) on the west side – including a bridge-sized structure for drainage – would cost an estimated $550,000.
A second option is constructing a longer one-way road/trail with a curvilinear (“snake”) design – and a smaller low-water crossing – for about $300,000.
“Both options, under ice conditions, you’d probably request the road to be closed to make sure that cars didn’t have the sliding, traverse issues,” the city engineer said.
Davis, of TEIM Design, explained the new Christmas in the Park route could be closed to vehicle traffic during the rest of year and used as a pedestrian trail.
Mayor Shelli Selby opposes having this new access road “in the midst of a park that’s supposed to be green.”
“We don’t need more concrete in our park,” she said. “For 18 days of traffic a year (on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for six weeks), it is not worth half a million dollars.
“If you have one entrance in and one entrance out, you are doubling the traffic on Vandament, Cornwell and 10th Street. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Selby acknowledged the frustrations over increased traffic volumes during Christmas in the Park.
“But this is something that the residents enjoy, and it brings in revenue to our city,” she said. “We have the best light display in the State of Oklahoma and people come from all over the state to see it.
“If our park went dark, people would have to go to another city to enjoy Christmas lights. And not everybody has the ability to do that.”
In a social media post, Yukon’s Bob Noll offered another suggestion, “How about relocating to Taylor Park?!”
Also at the Jan. 18th council work session, engineer Davis presented a proposal to install a new Southwest Covenant school pedestrian crossing near Vandament and Kingsridge Drive in Yukon city limits.
“The cost for doing this is minimal,” Davis told council members. “The sidewalk and (crosswalk) striping will be less than a couple thousand dollars. The issue is, to make sure it gets completed on the opposite side.”
Southwest Covenant School – on the south of Vandament – is in Oklahoma City limits.
“Oklahoma City has to be agreeable,” Mayor Selby said. “We have several residents who want a crosswalk that connects Ranchwood across to the high school because their ninth graders are having to walk to school.
“And that’s in Yukon – connecting one of our public schools.”
Selby noted Southwest Covenant is a private school – in Oklahoma City.
“Can they pay for it?” she asked.
The City of Yukon spent $5,000 for the Christmas in the Park alternate route study and $750 on the Southwest Covenant school crossing study.