After many months of discussion, a grant-writing process and a donation to kick of a possible campaign, it looks like the Mission Street project will go forward as advocates hoped it would.
The Tahlequah Mission Park Project organization, with more than a dozen members, launched his effort back in mid-2018 to acquire 21 acres from the HolderWorth group. The original intent was to get the land rezoned for apartments, but the TMPP - several of whose members live near the area - had another idea. They offered to buy the land themselves, and began an effort to raise money.
This acreage is home to local fauna, such as deer, fox, rabbits and raccoons - and lately, area residents have said, a mountain lion. TMPP wanted to create various hiking and walking trails, along with a community park - and eventually, a pond and and zones for the elderly and family-orientated gatherings. Dr. Craig Clifford, president of TMPP, pointed out there are no city parks in neighborhoods on the west side of Muskogee Avenue, and that this could be a boon for the community. Steve Worth, who was developing the property, agreed to work with the group.
Right before Christmas, the group was approved for its 501(c)(3) status, which will make donations tax-deductible. And more recently, an 80-20 matching grant was approved, thanks to the efforts of City Planning and Development Director Clinton Johnson and others. The city will own the property very soon, if all goes according to plan. Mayor Sue Catron says there are still some i's to dot and t's to cross, but things are looking very good.
The Recreational Trails Program grant is offered through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The 21 acres on First Street and Mission Avenue were appraised at $340,000, Catron said, and the grant will provide $240,000 toward the purchase. Catron said the Steven A. Worth Revocable Trust will accept $285,000 in cash and will donate the difference to the city.
But the project won't end with the city's purchase. The park will have to be maintained, and that will cost money. Too often, buildings and property are donated to universities, municipalities and other governmental authorities, but upkeep isn't part of the equation - and the recipient doesn't always have the revenue to perpetually pay for it. It's understandable that taxpayers would be concerned about such things.
The mayor said Steve and Jodeen Worth, in addition to selling the property at less than its appraised value, have offered to match donations up to $25,000 in an effort to encourage others in the community to contribute. Their generosity should be noted and appreciated, and just as with any other such project, other concerned citizens should step forward and help however they can. This worthwhile effort will mean so much to the city and its residents, and could be a factor in future growth. Studies have proved that public parks are always a key factor in bringing new residents to a community.
Every little bit will count. Those who want to help make this nature park a reality, and to ensure that taxpayers don't have to shoulder the entire burden for its future maintenance, can make their tax-deductible donations online at www.missionpark.org.