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Ales for Trails

Dead Armadillo taproom event boosts Turkey Mountain maintenance

Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition is teaming up with Dead Armadillo to raise money for trail maintenance.

Michelle Pollard

Four years ago, developers sought to rezone land at 61st Street and U.S. 75 to build an outlet mall. Adjacent to Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area, locals grew concerned that construction would disturb and destroy wildlife in the area, effectively ruining the park.

Those concerned citizens pulled together to form Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition (TUWC). Its mission: to educate and inform Tulsans throughout the development planning process.

Today, the land which developers were eyeing has remained largely untouched. But despite that battle being over (for now), TUWC has continued efforts to educate and inform, but the group has also taken it upon themselves to raise money for trail maintenance. So when Dead Armadillo taproom manager Brian Welzbacher reached out to friend and TUWC founding member Laurie Biby about a fundraiser event, Biby enthusiastically jumped on board.

“The first year when things were so controversial with the outlet mall, we had some really generous givers,” Biby said. “As a result, we had some people be very generous in that first year, and we’ve kind of been able to coast on that up until now. This year we sat down and were looking at the numbers and were like, if we don’t start getting in some money, we can’t continue for another three years with our current spending.”

Believe it or not, coordinating volunteer groups for trail cleanup days is a costly affair, and there is no permanent staff to take care of Turkey Mountain, Biby said. “The trail work we do, we have to carry a rather sizable insurance policy on our volunteers, and that’s required by the land owners. So even though it doesn’t sound like we do anything all that expensive, just our four major trail days a year for cleaning up are very expensive.”

The nonprofit organization is brings in less than 10 percent of what they have to spend, according to Biby. “Turkey Mountain is a private partnership, and most of it is owned by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and QuikTrip Corporation,” she said. “They’ve deeded some of it to the city, which is in turn signed a 30 year lease with Riverparks, but Riverparks is also a nonprofit, so they don’t have any money either.”

Welzbacher worked with Biby on a past mud run, so when he was looking to do some community outreach with Dead Armadillo, he immediately thought of TUWC. “I had this idea of Ales for Trails running around in my head … and we’re just trying to branch out and give back,” he said. “We utilize the trails, and it’s a big deal in Tulsa.”

Ales for Trails will be held April 18 at Dead Armadillo’s taproom. Biby said the $40 ticket buys dinner from Eagleton BBQ, two drink tickets, and entertainment from RocKFiscH Duo. There also will be a short keynote presentation from the director of conservation partnerships at the National Wildlife Foundation, Steve Bender. Plus, a silent auction will feature prizes from Tulsa Zoo, Stunt Puppy, Ink and Run, Oklahoma Kayak, Rustic Cuff, Ida Red, and more.

Dead Armadillo regularly rotates limited-run beers on tap. “We’ll definitely have something new,” he said. “We’ve talked about doing our coffee IPA again that people really love.”

Biby stressed that TUWC is for anyone who likes the outdoors. “It’s a big variety, it’s not just the tree-hugging people. It’s the people who want to go outside and go hunting and whatnot. It’s just outdoors people.” Members can join TUWC with $5 dues.

Even with Gathering Place going in just down the road, Turkey Mountain remains as popular as ever. “There is a trail counter at the base of the yellow trail by the main parking lot, and there has been zero drop off on attendance since Gathering Place opened,” Biby said. “There’s only one trail counter, and think about how many access points there are.”

With the imminent threat of climate change, groups dedicated to protecting and preserving nature are more important now than ever before. Though it can be hard to talk and hear through the political noise, Biby said the important thing is to find common ground.

“That’s the one thing we’ve had to work really hard at is educating, especially in Oklahoma, that being a good steward doesn’t mean we have to forego eating our barbecue,” Biby said. “We just want to preserve what we have for the next generation.”

Ales for Trails
Thurs., April 18 | 6–8 p.m.
Dead Armadillo Craft Brewing, 1004 E. 4th St.