Editorial: It's high time to beautify Sand Springs

This Centennial Clock is one of dozens across the State, commemorating Oklahoma's hundredth anniversary. 

Sand Springs is a wonderful community. I love it here. I was born and raised in Sand Springs and I've lived here for the majority of my life, with stents in Nowata, Bartlesville, Owasso, and Norman. I'm fairly well traveled for an Oklahoman of my age. The average American has visited only twelve states and at my 23 years of age I have been fortunate enough to spend time in seventeen, not counting layovers. 

I am not a turnpike traveler. I like to go with the land, not through it. I take the two-lane highways through the small towns that the interstate forgot. I read about them as I go, I stop in the downtown districts and see the sites. I use the pokestop information on the Pokemon Go! app to find unique parks, murals, statues, and other landmarks that I might otherwise drive right by. 

One thing I'm always struck by is how little art we have in Sand Springs. We have two existing murals and one that's still being painted. We have one statue and a handful of historical markers. That's it. If you visit nearby communities right here in Oklahoma, you're inundated with art. Not just the big cities like Tulsa or Oklahoma City, which have hundreds of murals across town. Sapulpa is the size of Sand Springs and has artwork on every corner. Drumright has a mere 3,000 people and yet their town is inundated with murals. 

Sapulpa Public Art

Drumright Public Art

Cushing Public Art

Sand Springs is in a pivotal time right now. With the demolition of the old steel plant, increased commercial development in RiverWest, and new businesses investing in downtown, the town has the opportunity to build momentum and really push Sand Springs into a new era of success. With the commercial development, we should also focus on developing the aesthetic so that the town doesn't lose its identity and end up like another Owasso or Broken Arrow, indistinguishable from Tulsa. 

The following are just a few areas that I think are ripe with potential for branding Sand Springs as a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway or a unique and perfect town in which to build a family and a future.

This grassy hillside is one of many empty areas that could use a little glam in Sand Springs. This spot is located on the southern side of US64 at the intersection with Main Street. The City already has beautification projects planned for many such areas, pending the passage of General Obligation Bond Proposal No. 4 this November, though this specific site hasn't been mentioned yet. A small flower garden here would go a long way, and it doesn't need to be some big expensive government project. This is the kind of simple project that a local youth group could knock out in a single afternoon. A mix of decorative rock and perennial plants would provide a low-maintenance and quality improvement to the town's beauty.

Nothing better to follow the hillside garden than a "Welcome to Downtown Sand Springs" mural. The US64/Main Street intersection is the gateway between old and new Sand Springs. On the south side you have the RiverWest development and the upcoming Sheffield Crossing development. An eye-catching garden and mural will help usher visitors from the modern growth to the heart of the city and hopefully encourage name-brand shoppers to spend a little time among the Mom and Pop shops that make our community unique. Efforts would need to be made to seal all of the cracks in the concrete where the weeds penetrate. Overpass murals have been done excellently in other communities, such as the I-244 intersection with North Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa.

Of all the sites in Sand Springs in need of a face-lift, this needs it the most. I mean no disrespect to the property owners, but most of downtown is red brick so this sticks out like a sore thumb. This is the side of the Yesterday to Now building and the parking for Hammond Family Dentistry. The white paint has clearly been touched up in various spots over the years so none of it is one consistent shade. This is also highly visible and unobstructed, making it a wonderful spot for a mural. The length of the building would bode well for a timelapse mural of Sand Springs throughout the years. 

There are many sites in Sand Springs that don't necessarily need a facelift, but would be fine candidates to receive murals if the community was in favor of more community artwork.
Left to right, top to bottom:

  • 21 East Broadway, owned by Montie Box Rental, currently leased by Bodley Insurance. 
  • 26 East Broadway, owned by Bekim Rexhepi LLC, leased by Napoli's Italian Eatery. This former site of the Sand Springs Trolley Depot aught to bear some reminder of its storied past.
  • 11 East 2nd Street, owned by Thomas & Sharecia Nowak Family Trust, leased by Boost Mobile.
  • 15 East 2nd Street, owned by Sand Springs Welfare Association, leased by Security Finance.
  • 100 North Main Street, owned by Tallent Electric, leased by Edward Jones and Chamber of Commerce.
  • 107 North Main Street, owned by Frank and Catherine Suraci, unoccupied. This is the first wall you see after entering downtown via Main Street.
  • 100 North Main Street, different side of aforementioned building.
  • 118 North Main Street, owned by Vazgen Minassian, leased by Doug's Rebuilders. 
  • 217 North Garfield Avenue, owned by Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. This building is probable the most visible location in downtown for a mural. 
  • 209 North Main Street, owned by IOWA LLC, occupied by Law Offices of Cynthia Phillips and Technology Consulting Services. 

This mural by Josh Butts is halfway done. The eastern side has yet to be primed due to the close proximity to power lines. 

The City of Sand Springs recently commissioned a pair of murals by Tulsa artist Josh Butts. One of these murals is about halfway finished on the abandoned Monarch Cement Co. silo just west of the Avery Drive-Highway 51 intersection. Neither the location nor the design of the second mural has been announced as of yet. City Council authorized $49,500 for the pair of them, funded by the Economic Development Capital Improvement Fund. That money is generated by a hotel tax.

SEE RELATED: City of Sand Springs commissions mural for abandoned Monarch Cement silo.

$49,500 is a lot of money to most people. It may not be a lot of money for a pair of high-quality murals, but it's a lot of money to the average Sand Springs citizen. 

I'm not advocating that the City authorize another $300,000 for murals. I'm a conservative. I believe that the government exists to provide essential services and nothing else. I love the mural being painted by Josh Butts, and I would love to see more of his work around Sand Springs, but I don't personally believe that the taxpayers should be forced to pay for it. 

Sand Springs is blessed with countless service groups and organizations. There are dozens of churches and youth groups. We have great organizations like Beautiful Living in Sand Springs, the Sand Springs Rotary Club, the Power of Partial Improvements, and hundreds of involved citizens who are constantly open to improving the community. 

The Rotary Club donated $70,000 in 2015 to help open a free public splash pad in Case Community Park. Case Community Park received a $2 million donation from Mike and Pat Case. The Rotary Club also sponsors Centennial Park where the sandy springs from which the town draws its name are located. Word of Life Church recently held a work day at Limestone Elementary where they painted several rooms throughout the facility to help the school district rebrand all their schools with black and gold. Church That Matters recently held a city-wide service day where they worked in parks, painted a bridge, worked at a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and even gave out free quarters at local car washes and laundromats.

The town has a long history of those with excess giving back to those with little. The town was born out of the charity of Charles Page, who used his wealth to open an orphanage and widows' colony. He also opened an amusement park and gave away major incentives to attract businesses to the town to provide jobs for his "children." Page had a sense of community that is still very much alive in the hearts of thousands of Sandites to this day. 

You don't have to be a millionaire oil baron to make a difference in your community. Maybe you can't commission a painting, but you can probably give five bucks towards a community enhancement fundraiser, or pick up a shovel and help plant a garden, or help pick up trash and tree debris after a thunderstorm. A few thousand people working together can get a lot done. Let's stop waiting on the City to pass bond issues and raise taxes to get things done. Let's just be involved citizens, get things done ourselves, and make this town the most unique community in the country.