Members of the Rutherford family gathered with city officials Thursday, April 8, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Tahlequah History Trail.
A portion of the newly constructed trail, from Choctaw Street to First Street, was named in honor of the Rutherford family — Rutherford Segment.
In 1991, then-Mayor Sally Ross and over 75 residents called themselves the Town Branch Steering Committee who worked with an University of Oklahoma landscape architecture student named Karen Lehr.
“[They worked] to define the vision that had been building in town for years and created a plan to increase tourism by developing the periphery of the Town Branch Creek, using a trail to tie various features together,” said Mayor Sue Catron.
The Rutherford Family Foundation provided a significant donation toward the expansion of the trail.
“We are here today to thank the family of Paul and Nan Rutherford for their very generous donation toward expansion of this trail system that was planned 30 years ago,” said Catron.
The Rutherfords owned and operated Thunderbird Lanes in Tahlequah from 1960 until 2004.
“They spent their lives providing entertainment and exercise opportunities for the community. They may well have been members of the Town Branch Steering Committee,” said Catron. “How very appropriate that their children have chosen to honor them by continuing to provide entertainment and exercise to the community via the Tahlequah Trail system.”
Steve Worth helped facilitate the $150,000 donation through the Tahlequah Community Fund, and he said the Rutherfords were committed to Tahlequah throughout their entire life.
“The Rutherfords had the foresight to give back to Tahlequah by establishing the Rutherford Family Foundation back in 2003, years before their passing,” said Worth.
Paul and Nan began donating to the Tahlequah Community Fund in 2011.
“This was the first legacy gift that was ever gives to the TCF. I only wish that they could see how the seed they planted has grown and flourished as other families have also decided to create legacy gifts that benefit Tahlequah,” said Worth.
The $150,000 donation will go toward further projects on the Tahlequah Trail System, and assist with the funding in Tahlequah’s first dog park.
With the Rutherford Family Foundation, other family legacy gifts and individual donors, the Tahlequah Community Fund has been able to give back $250,000 to charitable causes in the city.
“That does not include this generous and unforeseen $150,000 blessing to fund the trail system and the dog park,” said Worth. “I am so appreciative to the Rutherford family for the commitment they made to leaving a lasting impact on the community they love, and for the example they have set for others to continue investing back into the future of Tahlequah.”
Catron gave her appreciation to city employees who have worked and continue to work on the trail.
“I would also like to quickly recognize Buddy Harris from the Tahlequah Street Department, and Caleb Nichols is here representing the Tahlequah Recreation Department,” said Catron. “They maintain the trail and keep it looking beautiful. Councilors who have supported this project throughout their terms of office: Ward 1, Bree Long; Ward 2, Dower Combs and Keith Baker; Ward 3, Stephen Highers; and Ward 4, Trae Ratliff.”
Both Catron and Worth would like to see more community members follow in the steps of the Rutherfords as additional parts of trail will be named in the future.
“There are other opportunities for families who may want to do something similar for other segments of the trail as we continue to expand,” said Catron.
Those interested in making a donation to the trail, can call City Administrator Alan Chapman at 918-456-0651.