Oklahoma City’s downtown
Illustration: Lauren Nassef | Art Direction: Jelena Schulz

Ten years ago, walkability expert and city planner Jeff Speck strolled down every single street of Oklahoma City’s downtown as part of an analysis to determine why the city was so unfriendly to pedestrians. In 2008, it was voted the “worst U.S. walking city” in a review of 500 communities by Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Then in 2009, it was dubbed the “number two fattest city” in America by Men’s Fitness. Visit Oklahoma City today, however, and you’ll see miles of new sidewalks, bike lanes, and recreational trails, not to mention a city successfully challenged by Mayor Mick Cornett to lose over a million pounds.

At the core of Oklahoma City’s transformation is Metropolitan Area Projects Plan 3 (MAPS 3), a $777 million capital improvement program funded by a 1-cent sales tax. MAPS 3 ensures all its projects are debt-free before they begin, reinforcing the city’s full commitment to reinventing itself. More than anything, the goal is to lessen Oklahoma City’s urban sprawl and make it a walkable, livable, healthy community for all residents. The following projects are helping to power the comprehensive push for a new Oklahoma City.

Three urban trails will link the city to its rivers and lakes, and provide safe spaces for residents to walk, bike, and skateboard. The multiuse ADA-compliant trails are already contributing to the city’s connectivity; the 7.5-mile West River Trail was finished in 2015, and ground was recently broken on the 8.1-mile Will Rogers Trail.

A 70-acre public park stretching from downtown to the shore of the Oklahoma River will connect the residents to nature and add a beautiful public space. A 380-footlong pedestrian bridge with a 197-foot-tall sculpture will connect the park’s north and south sections; the north section is set to be completed in 2018, with the south section following three years later.

A whitewater rafting and kayaking center on the river, Riversport Rapids, was completed in 2016, providing outdoor excitement in a near-urban setting and appealing to weekend adventurers and competitive water sports enthusiasts alike.