Owasso Initiative Improves Neighborhoods
By ANNE BOYD
CARING COMMUNITY: Volunteers clear trash from neighborhood homes during a past Owasso Cares day. The event is held twice per year, which will next be held on April 26. So far, a total of 28 neighborhoods have been visited, 859 volunteers have helped and 2,500 hours of service have been achieved.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
The Owasso Strong Neighborhood Initiative was created more than five years ago and continues to make a great impact on the community.
The hope of the initiative is to provide nice neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy for years to come, says Jerry Fowler, Owasso neighborhood coordinator. This is achieved through a partnership between neighbors, neighborhood associations and the City of Owasso.
Fowler has enjoyed his experience so far as the coordinator for the initiative. “It has been very rewarding to build relationships with residents and neighborhood leaders,” he says. “Together we plan improvements as well as discuss, address and find solutions to any concerns that they have.”
Many of the improvements begin with the entrances of neighborhoods. “Entrances provide a nice curb appeal for everyone. They welcome residents and visitors and help to bring in new neighbors.”
Often these projects are centered around tidying gardens and improving neighborhood signs. Other projects include maintaining common areas such as ponds and parks and adding sign toppers throughout.
Fowler notes that two neighborhoods in particular have made a lot of positive changes recently. “El Rio Vista has created beautiful entrances to the neighborhood,” says Fowler. “They worked very hard by redoing landscaping and adding sign toppers. Country Estates has also made strides. They have made the neighborhood feel more connected and even earned a grant.”
The Matching Grant Program encourages neighbors to come together and raise funds for improvement projects. Then, those funds are matched by the Owasso Community Foundation and help the projects go even further.
In addition, Fowler explains that the Alert Neighborhood Program has been created to maintain the safety of neighborhoods, with the help of the Owasso Police Department, which partners with residents to prevent crime before it occurs.
April 26th will bring about the eighth biannual Owasso Cares day. Volunteer groups of neighborhood leaders work hard during the entire day to beautify neighborhoods. “We remove debris, paint fire hydrants, and pick up trash, among other tasks,” says Fowler. So far, a total of 28 neighborhoods have been visited, 859 volunteers have helped and 2,500 hours of service have been achieved.
Every summer, the initiative helps to organize block parties so that neighbors can get to know one another. They are all held on the same day as a celebration of the community. Most often, kids get to enjoy a surprise visit from area firefighters, complete with tours of their trucks and helpful tips for everyone.
The initiative was presented with the 2012 Keep Oklahoma Beautiful’s Environmental Excellence Award. In 2013, it was awarded the OG&E Innovative Award. Fowler says that both were a great honor for everyone involved.
In the coming years, Fowler hopes that the initiative will continue to grow and make an even bigger impact on the community. “A strategic plan is being created this year,” he says. “It will lay out all of our goals and strategies for the next five to 10 years.”