The Pawhuska City Council recently voted to remove part of a street in the city, paving the way for the Osage Nation to build a multi-million dollar park.
The 65-acre land south of Main Street that used to be a railroad right-of-way is now almost empty.
But Osage Nation Secretary of Development Christian Johnson has big dreams about it. He calls it an “outdoor health complex.”
“Basically replicating the Tulsa gathering place, obviously on a smaller scale,” Johnson said.
It’s expected to cost about $17 million, and Johnson said the country needs to be remediated because of lead and arsenic problems.
But he said there are plans for Pickleball, an amphitheater and more.
“This is the Osage Nation Visitor Center. And that’s four softball fields, one regular baseball field, one regular soccer field,” he said while pointing to a rendering.
The tribe already owns the land, and the Pawhuska City Council voted unanimously about a week ago to give up part of a city road for the project, knowing that a new road would be built for people living in the neighborhood.
Prudom Avenue is in the middle of where the park would go. Mayor Roger Taylor voted in favor of the change.
“They want to practically shut down part of Prudom a block and open up a brand new street here to the east of us. So it looks like everything is going to be a really positive thing for Pawhuska,” Taylor said.
But not everyone is on board. Several Osage Nation members of Congress have concerns about funding.
“We have Osages across the country who need food, clothing and shelter,” said Joseph Tillman, Congressman for the Osage Nation. Tillman ran for chief against current Osage Nation chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and lost this summer.
“I, like other members of Congress, was elected to serve all Osages throughout the United States, wherever they may be. And a $15 million sports complex in Pawhuska, no matter how nice it was, how will it benefit the Osages outside of Osage County?” Tillmann said. “But if we can find funding outside of the tribal nation, I’m fine with that. But when you ask us for Tribal Dollars, I have a really hard time figuring it out.”
Congressman Eli Potts released a statement calling the park an “old project,” saying in part, “I have Osage constituents in Hominy who need a grocery store, Fairfax who need better access to health care, and in Skiatook , Bartlesville, Tulsa, Sand Springs and Owasso who need rent assistance, affordable housing and childcare assistance while struggling with record inflation.”
Congressman Jodie Revard said over the phone she wasn’t opposed to the project but said she couldn’t support it at the moment and said she was just trying to prioritize funding.
At the moment, Johnson’s office said about $2 million has been committed to the project, through the Osage Nation Roads Department and two energy companies, which he declined to name yet.
Johnson’s office said Prudom won’t close until the new road is built, and there’s no timeline for that yet.
But there is an end goal in mind.
“The goal is to get this done by four years when Chief Standing Bear is out of office,” Johnson said.