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November 4, 2003

Oklahoma Main Street News, the latest newsletter from the home office of our state's wide-awake Main Street program, has an interesting feature this month about the success and growth of Okmulgee's development and renovation. Specifically, the article focuses on Okmulgee's downtown "pocket park" program, and that is something of interest to Perry folks.

So far, the possibility for Perry has just dealt with the future tense, but maybe the time is right for some positive action—now. Creating one or more of those miniature, restful green areas around the Perry square could inspire even greater efforts to make our downtown more invit-ing to visitors and shoppers. And that is one of the goals of every Main Street program.

Enough from the soapbox. Let's hear about the reality—the successful program in Okmulgee. It's a city with more population than Perry, but with problems very much like ours. The downtown area of Okmulgee is centered on a "square," very much like ours. Here are some of the salient points as listed by Kendall Mooney, program director of Okmulgee Main Street, Inc.

The pocket park effort began with members asking themselves, "What do we want our downtown to feel like," and they decided they wanted it to feel like home. What is your home? They agreed, "home" is safe, inviting, beautiful, comfortable and thus, a place you truly want to be. So they began to create positive public spaces that would encourage and reinforce the feeling of "home." (Okmulgee had suffered through a rash of fires in the historic downtown area. As a result, several buildings were mere burned-out, ugly shells.) Mooney relates: "That simple, yet poignant analogy really impacted and inspired the viewpoint of the Okmulgee Main Street Design Committee and the Program Committee. A group effort began thinking and planning ways in which they could preserve and transform their beautiful ‘home’—Downtown Okmulgee."

To make a long story short, the committees inspired a unified effort to clean up the burned-out property, plant grass, flowers and trees, and engaged a Main Street architect to design those compact, restful areas for the pleasure and enjoyment of the entire community.

Of course, there's much more to the story of Okmulgee's pocket park transformation, but you can read all about it in the most recent edition of the state Main Street organization's newsletter. It's a program that could reap many rewards for our own local downtown revival. Think about it, including what you could do to get this project off high center in Perry.