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December 10, 1999

A Rotary club speaker from Edmond paid Perry a fine compliment the other day. He said his job requires him to travel through every county of this state and he has decided that Perry is the coolest town he's seen. He said: "It is so picturesque, just the way you like to think a small town should look. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting," referring to works by the late artist who did many of the Saturday Evening Post's finest covers. I think that this is praise indeed because Mr. Rockwell pretty well succeeded in creating a definitive, idyllic visual image of America. Perry could well have been the inspiration for some of his most famous works of art. All this reminds me of a young Oklahoma City lady's remark around 45 years ago after her first trip to our community. She said then that Perry looked like the incarnation of a scene from a Booth Tarkington novel because of its classic Victorian architecture, plus some modern elements of the twentieth century. She liked it so much that she stayed here. Lucky for me she did. In time she became my bride.

Recently I've been listening to an expression of thoughts on a few things that would make Perry an even better place. One of the foremost needs cited was more city parks. No new municipal parks for general use have been built in this community for many years. An exception is the excellent Century Park at the east approach to the city, but it was built, equipped and donated to the municipality by the Exchange Bank & Trust Co. as part of our centennial observance in 1993. Baseball and softball fields have been constructed by the city, but they are not for use of the public in general.

The person I was listening to pointed out that we have a limited number of walking and hiking paths, no bicycle trails, no place for inline skaters or skateboards in the city limits, and we are lacking other recreational facilities for adults and young people.

In addition to that, parts of CCC Park are deteriorating. This park, southeast of Perry, was built in the Great Depression era of the 1930s and was donated to the city by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It has been our pride and joy for years, providing a decent place for swimmers, fishermen (and women), boaters and for group picnics in a restful, green oasis. Today anglers still wet their hooks there and a few walkers bravely traverse the park's roads, but rarely do you see picnickers spreading food on the shabby tables in the one good shelter at lakeside. Vandals have desecrated another shelter on a hill nearby with profane and obscene graffiti spray painted on the rock walls. The facility is being used by some as a bathroom and, others tell me, for criminal activities. What once was our city's finest park is now being badly abused. The city currently has an improvement project underway on the main road looping through the west side of the park, and that is laudable but it needs more than that. The "church on a perch," moved out there a couple of years ago by well-meaning local preservationists with hopes of restoring the historic structure, is falling apart, piece by piece, and there is no evidence of maintenance or renovation. Who should be looking into this problem?

Perhaps money would solve some of our park needs, but the municipal budget already is tight and there's little hope in that area. A good new water source probably 's our No. 1 priority, but I have a feeling that one day we're going to wake up and find some of our favorite recreational facilities are outdated or simply have fallen down. Steps should be taken soon to avoid such a calamity. Would a modest bond issue pass if proposed? Do our city fathers see the need for an early solution? What do you think should be done?