Jenkins trees will be past tense to accommodate road widening

Stakes represent the struggles Norman residents face as they deal with the loss of their yards and trees. The city plans to begin negotiations to buy the residents’ private property, making way for a median and two additional lanes on Jenkins Avenue. Photo by Zack Wright.

When Susanne Corr’s parents bought their home on Jenkins Avenue nearly 75 years ago, the area looked drastically different. 

“This particular house has been in my family since 1950,” Corr said. “When my parents first bought this house, I was in junior high, and we had a field in front and a dirt road.” 

“Things have changed little by little, and I’m not opposed to change,” she said. “I just think that this particular project doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

After Norman citizens voted in favor of a series of projects in the 2019 Bond Transportation package, city officials prioritized a plan to widen Jenkins Avenue from two lanes to four from Imhoff Road to Lindsey Street. 

“City staff identified the Jenkins project as their number one priority, especially due to game days, regular university traffic and what we think will be an increased use of Jenkins as the university continues to develop the softball stadium and Reeves park,” Norman city councilmember Stephen Holman said. 

“All of those items make this a corridor that looked like it needed to be widened and expanded into a larger footprint to be able to carry more traffic,” city engineer Scott Sturtz said.  

Although this road will benefit many citizens and students, the city of Norman plans to cut into residential yards to make room for two additional lanes and a median. Residents living along Jenkins, such as Corr, are dealing with the consequences.

“ [The project] is just squeezing us in a bit and taking away our trees and things that we just hate to lose,” Corr said.

“I don’t want the trees to go,” Holman said. “The treeline enhances the aesthetic of the university the way it is, so I definitely understand where they’re coming from and I feel the same way.”

Branches from two large trees arch over Jenkins Avenue. Since the city plans to purchase the land up to their fence, Erika and Stephen Miller are exploring options to reconstruct their driveway to fit multiple vehicles within the new boundaries. Photo by Zack Wright.

Corr’s neighbors Erika and Stephen Miller are also losing two large trees at the end of their driveway, which will shrink considerably. 

“Our landscaping, our drainage, our sprinkler system, all of that may be impacted in ways that we may have to negotiate with the city,” Erika Miller said. 

“The sidewalk is going right up to our fence because they need that land,” Stephen Miller explained. 

Another neighbor, Pam McIntosh, expressed her frustration with the lack of communication during the whole process after the project stalled to secure federal funding.

As Pam McIntosh points out, the city will clear everything to the left of the stakes in her front yard. McIntosh’s trees and shrubs will soon become new lanes and a 10-foot wide sidewalk. Photo by Zack Wright.

“It’s been kind of secretive,” McIntosh said. “We had one meeting and didn’t hear anything for a year, and then stakes went up.”

Despite the concerns from residents, Sturtz maintains the city is being responsive to the residents’ needs as it begins negotiations to purchase the needed private property. He predicted construction would not begin until early 2024 at best.