COMMERCE — The City of Commerce has tentative plans to build a new park after receiving donated land from Virgil Jurgensmeyer.
The new park will extend from 2nd Street to A St. back to M St. Jurgensmeyer donated approximately 15 acres of land that is adjacent to the city’s wastewater lagoons.
The city currently owns an additional 40 acres in that area and the land that reaches Tar Creek.
“Since it sits in a low-lying area, it’s not good for housing, but it would be great for a park,” City Administrator Tommy Long said. “It’s going to be a pretty large park.”
“We’re trying to push towards the future but also create things like this park that will preserve our past and the things people used to do,” he added. “We want people to have a place they can be proud of.”
Jurgensmeyer’s land was transferred to the city’s name at the beginning of December.
“We got all of the paperwork done and changed the title over to the City of Commerce,” Long said.
The name of the park is still not determined. Long said the park might be named after Virgil’s wife, Margie, who passed away in 2014.
The future park will be located at the end of Charles Sill Memorial Park where the two will connect. The new park will come off on Commerce Avenue.
“Whenever you turn to go next to Sill Park, we’re going to finish that road into the (new) park,” Long said. “Where it Ts down there at the end of Sill Park, we’re going to take it on into the new park.”
Commerce will be working on grants to help build the park like ones through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“It’s a community facilities grant through the USDA,” Long said. “It’s for communities for less than 5,000 people. The population here is about 2,600. There are a few grants that we qualify real strong for and that’s one of them. We’re going to apply for more than one grant, but that will be the biggest one. If we receive that, it will give us an opportunity to really start making changes.”
Long said they had the idea to build the park after digging out a pond for clay during its wastewater project.
“We had to go below the topsoil and the jump clay to get to the clay we needed to repair our lagoons,” Long said. “It just seemed like a natural fit that it would make a really good purpose for that area. It really wasn’t going to be used for anything else.”
To combat flooding, the pond banks were built higher during the lagoon project. Long said the city will be working with federal agencies like Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to combat any future flooding in the area.
“The pond itself won’t flood from Tar Creek,” Long said. “We’re going to be working with some of the regulatory agencies to see about widening a stretch of the Tar Creek area right there to help reduce flooding. Most of that land does sit in water if it rains enough. If we can widen Tar Creek where it could drain better, it will give us a place to backflow into it and not flood into the park.”
Long said he hopes to include a pond for fishing, a walking track, a playground and a rodeo arena in the new park.
“In the process of building the lagoons, we were able to build about a 5-acre pond that we’re going to turn into a community fishing pond,” Long said. “We’ll then use the rest of it for walking trails. A lot of people use the walking track at Sill Park, and this will give them another place and different scenery. We may even connect the two paths. We’ll eventually like to have a rodeo arena and things like that, as well.”
“We want things that will help improve the quality of life,” he added. “You do the day-to-day stuff, but you also have to make and improve things for the citizens. It’s one of the things on the list to do.”
A shooting range where Commerce Police Department practice is also located on the grounds. Depending on liability, the city hopes to open the range up to the public and include it in the park.
“We’d like to open it up to people where they can come out on certain weekends, under police supervision, to be able to shoot and do things a lot of communities don’t have,” Long said. “There have been a lot of people asking about a place to go shoot guns. Depending on insurance and liability, this would give us the ability to provide something like this for the community.”
Ideas for features in the park are still being discussed, and Long is encouraging public input on what they would like to see in the park.
“We want to see what the people want to do,” Long said. “We’d also like to get with one of the universities to see about getting some design plans, renderings of what they think would be a nice fit. A lot of times, they help with things like that.”
In the future, the city also hopes to host its annual festival, Commerce Days, in the new park. Since the park is still in its planning stages, Long said the city is unsure when the park will be completed.
“It will probably be one of those continuous projects where we constantly improve and make it better,” Long said. “It’s the type of project where a whole bunch of things are coming together, and it will be really neat once it’s done.”