Stephenson Park Remodel
Edmond’s Oldest Park
For 130 years, the people of Edmond have enjoyed recreational activities at Stephenson Park, near downtown Edmond. The 2.5 acres was donated by Col. E. B. Townsend in 1892 in response to encouragement from Milton “Kickingbird” Reynolds, who promoted the benefits of trees and parks in his newspaper, The Edmond Sun.
The park has changed names and undergone several minor revisions in the last century, but the only major renovation occurred in 1934, a result of the Great Depression. As part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, the rock walls and bridges were constructed, and a tennis court was added.
At the time, it was called South Park, but was renamed after Fred M. Stephenson, the city manager. North Park, platted in 1889, was located on the land now used by the downtown post office, so Stephenson Park holds the honor of being Edmond’s longest-standing park.
Time for a Face Lift
Now, 88 years later, Stephenson Park is slated for its second major renovation. “For five years, Edmond has hosted numerous meetings with city leaders and the community to determine the best way to upgrade Stephenson Park,” said Bill Begley, Edmond’s Marketing and Public Relations Manager. “The final plans, which begin construction in late September, honor the park’s history, while adding needed features for the future.”
New amenities will include more greenspace, a new playground, and a grand pavilion suitable for both daily use and large events. Infrastructural changes include new underground drainage, over 50 additional parking spaces, improved lighting, food truck access, and level greenspace and sidewalks.
“The park will be more walkable, boost the businesses around the area, and provide easier entry to the Edmond History Museum,” Begley said. “We can all look forward to more events, festivals and concerts, too, as the new Stephenson District develops.”
Remembering the History
Those who feel nostalgic about the park will continue to see the history of the site honored. The rock bridges, entrance, and Veteran’s Plaza will remain, as will most of the trees, including the cypress grove.
The park’s most iconic, beloved structure since the 1960s is the Rocket Ship slide. As safety standards progressed beyond possibility for the 60-year-old playground equipment, city leaders struggled to balance children’s well-being and parent’s emotional attachment. To honor its legacy, the Rocket Ship will become a permanent feature at the park’s entrance, but the slide is being donated to the museum.
City planners believe that Townsend, Reynolds, and Stephenson would appreciate that the now-urban park has continued to renew itself; providing public leisure space and trees, while adapting to the modern needs of society.
“Our oldest park is due for an upgrade,” Begley said, “and when these renovations are complete, future generations can better use the space, while still seeing the historic foundations of Stephenson Park.”
Stephenson Park is located at 431 S. Blvd., at S. Littler Ave. & E. 4th St.