QUAPAW— The beginnings of a new recreational space are taking shape off historic Route 66 thanks to the efforts of the Quapaw Tribe and a state grant.

In June of 2016, the tribe was awarded $74,582 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a reimbursable grant, meaning the project sponsor must pay all project costs as they are incurred. Sponsors then may request reimbursement for 50 percent of eligible expenses up to the amount approved for the project.

“We applied for the Land & Water Conservation Grant to get a recreation area in Quapaw,” said Kim Morris, Quapaw Tribe grant writer. “It was originally going to be a roadside park technically where people could pull in from Route 66, but it’s gone further, now.”

The roadside park is being built on two lots on the northwest corner of Main and 4th Street in Quapaw. When complete, the lots, which are currently just concrete and asphalt pads, will be converted into a greenspace with two pavilions, picnic tables, stationary grills and a playground. The two pavilions have already been installed.

“It will be converted into a green area with flowers, grass, and fencing,” Morris said.

The park will also feature other amenities like bike racks, benches and trash receptacles. The land for the roadside park was donated to the tribe from an anonymous individual. Construction of the lots began in November 2016.

“It was a gravel, concrete parking lot and we wanted to make it into a pretty nice green space along Route 66, to give it some historical significance and give the community a place to have fun,” Morris said.

After the tornado in 2014, the tribe reached out to the community to hear public input on what residents wished to see in Quapaw.

“There were public meetings with tribal members, the City of Commerce, community members and City Hall,” Morris said. “The park was one of the big things they wanted to see, and that’s why we decided to pursue it.”

Mayor Mickey Johnson said the Town of Quapaw originally wanted to build the park but was unable to due to budget constraints.

“The Town of Quapaw had talked about putting in a little park like that, but we actually don’t have a lot of extra money,” said Johnson. “You have to put that kind of things at the bottom of the list, so we’re glad it will be there for the people, and we’re glad the tribe is doing that for us.”

The Quapaw Service Authority (QSA) and the Quapaw Maintenance Department have been doing the construction for the project, which began in November.

“They’re donating all of their time and equipment to do the construction on this,” Morris said. “They’re not charging anything to the grant and we’re not paying them to do it.”

The tribe is hoping to have the park open to the public by the spring.

“Winter is a slow construction and maintenance time, so that’s when they’re going to have a majority of workers out there,” Morris said. “We have all of the concrete laid, so there’s nothing really weather imperative that needs to be done.”

Morris said the overall plan of the tribe is to help rejuvenate the town.

“We have a lot of economic development going on,” Morris said. “We’re selling the meat out of the QSA offices. We have plans to open a general market down there. We have our environmental and realty buildings. We’re trying to develop Quapaw back into a town to help generate revenue for the city and the tribe. We’re really trying to make it into a community again.”

The tribe has helped revitalize the town with its new QSA offices downtown, its meat product distribution center, the Wellness and Cultural Centers and its upcoming meat processing plant.

“The new park will definitely help improve the appearance of the town,” Johnson said. “I’m really pleased that they’re able to build this park.”