The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 14, 2012

Courting the community

Longtime park board member still has finger on the pulse of the city

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Carolyn Nicholas’ time on the Enid Park Board has ended for now, but she still is interested in the community.

Nicholas served on Enid Park Board for about nine years, part of the time as chairwoman. During that time, she was one of those instrumental in building several new tennis courts in Enid.

“You might say that was my pet project while I was there,” she said.

The city of Enid donated $80,000, and the park board raised an additional $320,000 to build the new courts, which Enid tennis players said were needed badly. Nicholas and fellow board member Coni Blankenship led the way on the drive.

Nicholas also was active during the initial stages of the development of the Enid trail system. Fellow board member Kelly Champlin brought up the idea, then left the board, so Nicholas followed up, again, she said, with assistance from other board members.

When Andrie Winters, the city’s grant coordinator, started her job, she immediately obtained a $700,000 grant from Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The grant is paid out as specific trail requirements are met.

“It’s a slow process,” Nicholas said. “The idea is to have 3.2 miles (of trails) in the center of town and a spur that will go to Walmart, a spur that will go to the Northern Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University, a spur going to Crosslin Park and one south going to Vance Air Force Base. That way it will be accessible to all quadrants of the city.”

The initial project began in 1995. Nicholas said Jerry Allen also has been involved in the trail project. She complimented City Manager Eric Benson for his assistance.

“I was excited to see the city commission return from their (recent) brainstorming session and say they were focusing on quality of life issues,” she said.

During the first five years Nicholas was a member of the Park Board, there were several different city managers. It is hard to maintain consistent planning that way, she said.

But tennis courts, parks and trails are only a few of Nicholas’ “pet projects.” Since she works in environmental consulting, Nicholas was among the first to push an Enid lake. The city recently created a water master plan that warned of a water shortage within 20 years if steps are not taken. Since that time, the city has begun work on developing a number of new water wells and ways to deliver the water to Enid. She still believes a lake is another option to that plan.

“Nitrates tend to accumulate in ground water, and a lake would eliminate that, plus we would have the other benefits of a lake,” Nicholas said.

One of the major problems involved in building a lake is the flatness of Garfield County. Nicholas said a lake requires a natural canyon and also a river running through the area. That type of water source is somewhat rare in Garfield County, she said. However there are options. Her original plan was a 10,000-acre lake, but she has pared that idea down to a smaller lake. Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City is 2,500 acres and is one of the busiest recreation areas in Oklahoma City.

“I’d be happy with a 2,500-acre lake,” she said.

In addition to her community work, she is mother to three teenage boys, and she and husband Jay are helping charter Cimarron Presbyterian Church in Enid.