Even in winter, spots of living color can be seen in downtown Tahlequah. The parklets on Muskogee Avenue offer community members and business owners an opportunity to beautify the city.
A parklet is a sidewalk extension that provides more space and amenities for people using the street, according to Jamie Hale, director of Tahlequah Main Street Association.
"The downtown Tahlequah 'bump-outs,' as many call them, provide a colorful landscape piece and aid in the overall beautification of our downtown area," said Hale.
City government officials began talking about the "bump-outs" in 2012, and money was used from excess tax collections to build the spots, which feature plants, trees, and benches.
Muskogee Avenue has 23 parklets, beginning at Goingsnake Street and running down to Chickasaw Street.
TMSA developed the Adopt-a-Spot program in 2014, and when Drew Haley was TMSA director, money was allocated for the association to take care of the areas. The program is now named Adopt-a-Parklet.
"Anyone can 'Adopt-a-Parklet' - individuals, families, organizations or businesses. The adoptee agrees to sponsor a parklet for a two-year period, unless otherwise agreed upon, and is given a predefined list of plants and flowers to help maintain a sense of unity," said Hale. "It is a great option for anyone looking to volunteer and to be involved in the beautification of our community."
The city's parks department has helped water the mini-garden spots in previous years, but most of the time, the people who adopt them take care of them.
The beds outside Vidalia's Café are tended by the owner and employees, and they water them almost every day.
"My bosses picked the specific plants and planted them. They coordinated the plants with the pots out front," said Maci French, Vidalia's employee. "They do make downtown prettier when they're kept up. I think it's cute we have our own."
Nasturtium Garden Club member Sandy Fitzgerald said many businesses partner with the group to take care of the bump-outs.
"At Sam & Ella's, one of the servers loves to do it. All summer long, it was beautiful because that one server took care of it," said Fitzgerald.
Businesses such as Green Country Garden, Sunshine Nursery, Sooner Plant Farm, and Palmer's Plants also adopt parklets. Some put in the landscaping, but the Garden Club takes care of it.
"They know what they're doing and they donate to it," said Fitzgerald. "They can't come in and water, so we do it."
Hale said the Nasturtium Garden Club plays a huge part in the program.
"They have a few volunteers who come a couple of times a week and spend a great portion of the day weeding and replacing mulch as needed," said Hale. "They also plant annuals twice a year: pansies in the spring and dwarf zinnias in the fall."
TMSA furnished some of the plants for the downtown areas maintained by the Garden Club.
"The pansies will look beautiful this spring when the really cold temps are past," said Fitzgerald. "The zinnias didn't do very well because of not getting water."
She said the club encourages businesses and everyone to beautify the town, but those who choose to adopt a spot should be committed to taking care of them so they stay vibrant.
"We want to make sure they are in good hands," said Fitzgerald. "They're so shallow and the soil's not that good. They really need drought-tolerant plants, but if you plant the right things and get it mulched, they are beautiful."
A handful of parklets are still available for adoption. Adoptees have to keep the areas clean of litter, and report any damage to TMSA.
Information about the TMSA Adopt-a-Parklet program is available by calling 918-431-1655 or going to www.tahlequahmainstreet.com/adopt-a-parklet.html