Bixby couple landscapes Quail Creek Park
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Monday, January 09, 2012
1/09/12 at 8:26 AM
BIXBY - Rex Graves never grows tired of the growing season.
That's because when the weather warms and the blossoms unfold, the view from his sunroom is a feast for the eyes.
"It's just magical," Graves said of the decorative garden he and his wife, Judy, have created in Quail Creek Park. "People just marvel at it."
The couple's labor of love for more than 20 years, the setting has served as a backdrop for wedding, prom and baby photos. At one point, the park attracted busloads of people as a stop on the Tulsa Garden Club Tour.
Its colorful history was nearly uprooted several months ago, when the city said it was unwilling to take over care of the area from the Graves.
But that changed last week with a letter from City Attorney Patrick Boulden, who said mowing and maintenance would be provided by the municipality through a contractor.
"The city has found a balance of compassion and gratitude," Rex Graves said.
In a September letter from the city, then-municipal attorney Phil Frazier said the cost of providing water and labor to the decorated city property was outside the city's budget. Later correspondence gave the Graves a Jan. 2 deadline to have the vegetation removed.
Despite the compromise, Boulden said the city still has reached no decision on watering the area.
"Hopefully, nature will take care of it," he said. "My understanding is that the controls are on his property. We can't let private individuals run up a bill for the city."
The municipality funded a water source for the garden after the Graves installed a sprinkler system about a decade ago, Graves said. The city cut the water off to the area in September, he said.
"I'm going to lobby to get water," Graves said. "It's an investment. Why would you leave a $6,000 sprinkler system underground that's attached and automatic and just walk away from it. Mother Nature can do its job pretty well, but a little water needs to be put to it after a few days of extreme heat."
Early last year, Graves asked the city if it could begin maintaining the garden on its dime. The city's easement runs right up to the Graves' house, which was built in 1986 and sits on the east end of the park.
The municipality has determined that any agreements between Rex Graves and former City Manager Mickey Webb are invalid because they lacked City Council approval.
The Graves first planted trees in the area, about three a year for a dozen years, Rex Graves said. Redbuds, crape myrtles and dogwoods followed.
There is now a walkway, park benches and name tags for the vegetation.
All told, he estimates he and his wife have poured $175,000 in landscaping upgrades to the city-owned park.
"People think it belongs to us, some of them do," Graves said. "But we tell them all, 'This is city property. We just maintain it because it is close to our house, and it's pretty.'"
Scott Rule lives at Quail Creek Park's west end, where he said residents there also made improvements to playground equipment out of their own pocket.
"A lot of money has been spent on that area," Rule said. "We don't want to see it go away.
"It's kind of like when you do something as a favor for a while and they act like you owe it to them the rest of your lives. You can't ever get out of it, and you're a bad person if you stop."
Original Print Headline: Making our garden grow
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Rex Graves sits in a decorative, city-owned garden he and his wife, Judy, have maintained for years just outside their Bixby home in Quail Creek Park. The city of Bixby, which threatened to remove the vegetation when asked by the Graves to assume its care, reconsidered last week and will now maintain the landscaping. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Playground equipment sits on the west end of Quail Creek Park in Bixby, up the street from the home of Rex and Judy Graves. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
A sign greets visitors to Quail Creek Park in the South Country Estates of Bixby. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
The garden outside the Bixby home of Rex and Judy Graves is shown in growing season. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Quail Creek Park's decorative garden, dormant in winter, erupts in color in the spring and summer. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World