By KEITH HANSEN
There’s a movement afoot that tugs at the pride of the folks calling Tahlequah and the rest of Cherokee County home. It’s an appeal for everyone – from the youngest to the oldest – to clean up the turf around them. Call it a campaign or a program, but what it really boils down to is a shoutout to all of us to resist contributing to the roadside trash we see, now that the snows of winter are behind us.
“Tahlequah has reached a crossroads where we need to define who we are,” said David Moore, executive director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce. “I believe we are a good place for business and a great place to raise a family, but we need to take a strong look at we how visually present ourselves and ask is this the city we are visually proud of.
“For too long, we have accepted the status quo that litter in our city and county is acceptable. I think we need to challenge ourselves and raise that proverbial bar that litter in any form will no longer be acceptable. Therefore, the Chamber will take a leadership role in a campaign to make Tahlequah and the surrounding area the ‘Pride of Green Country.’”
Moore has found support from others in Tahlequah.
“We have a pretty city blessed with natural beauty. It’s troubling to see that beauty marred by litter and trash that makes it seem as if we don’t care,” said Kate Young Kelly, Tahlequah tourism director. “This issue is raised often, with the as-yet unanswered question, ‘What can we do?’ We can literally start at home in our own homes and yards, and encourage our neighbors to do the same. Pride, like many traits, can be made to flourish and thrive with practice. Each one of us can be mindful of leading by example. We will do this because we believe Tahlequah can be better. A cleaner Tahlequah will improve tourism. It will improve business, attract new businesses, raise home values, and support a healthier environment.”
Our town is strikingly beautiful, with its parks, creek beds and a natural contour that is a draw to people who come to the area to recreate – enjoying our rivers and lakes. Many also find our off-road adventures on mountain bikes, ATVs or hiking trails to be somewhat appealing. However, some will find the trash strewn along our streets, roads and streams to be a negative.
As a newcomer to this area, I was encouraged when Moore and Young were joined by Drew Haley, director of Tahlequah Main Street Association, in calling for civic groups such as the Kiwanis and Rotary, church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah High School students and the entire student body of NSU to join in a total war on trash. The battleground will extend from the Cherokee Nation’s casino on the south to Allen Road, just north of the NSU football stadium.
“Tahlequah is a unique and special place and we throw out the welcome mat for visitors to come to Tahlequah, but we have grown complacent to inviting them to our dirty house,” Haley said. “It’s time for a spring cleaning and a commitment to keep it clean.”
So, the three groups have pulled together an invitation to the groups mentioned earlier, and to those who just want to pitch in and make this town clean from one end to the other. All you have to do is show up with work gloves, muck boots (for those who want to pull the trash from Town Branch Creek, or Bear Creek if you prefer), trash pick-up tools and a whole lot of enthusiasm to make Tahlequah the “Pride of Green Country.”
When? Clean Up Tahlequah will be held Saturday, April 12 at 8 a.m. Where? Pick your spot – from the Cherokee Nation to Allen Road.
Sign up by emailing the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce at: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now all that’s needed to make this happen is for everyone to volunteer and for the city of Tahlequah to pick up the bags of trash. (Anyone willing to donate trash bags?)