Task force works to bring kicks to Tulsa's Route 66
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2012
11/08/12 at 7:04 AM
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Tulsa's stretch of historic Route 66 has benefited from a lot of nice projects - the new bronze statue being dedicated Friday among them, but it hasn't yet become a destination spot, City Councilor Blake Ewing said.
That's what the city's Route 66 Task Force, spearheaded by Ewing and with more than 100 active members, is working to achieve.
"I really think this has the most potential 10 years from now to be the coolest street in our city," he said.
"Route 66 is one of the strongest brands in the entire world, and it runs right through our town."
Vision 2025 invested $15 million in Route 66 improvements, including the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge renovations, as well as the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza and skywalk at the east end of the bridge.
A larger-than-life bronze statue, "East Meets West," depicting the Avery family riding in a Model-T as they encounter a horse-drawn carriage on its way from the west Tulsa oil fields was recently installed in the plaza at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.
It will be dedicated by officials at a 2 p.m. Friday ceremony.
Avery was the former Tulsa County commissioner who is known as the father of the Mother Road because he successfully lobbied Congress in 1926 to make it a 2,450-mile national highway running from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Also along Tulsa's Route 66, streetscaping projects have been done, the Meadow Gold Sign has been refurbished, gateways are being installed and an information kiosk at 11th Street and Mingo Road has been established.
But what Tulsa's Route 66 lacks, Ewing said, is a big stop-and-see attraction and a vibe of things happening.
The major Route 66 project - an interpretive center at the plaza - is still in development and, depending on the scope, will likely need additional funding to accomplish. A feasibility study is under way.
The planned museum facility has $2 million from Vision 2025 and $5 million from the 2006 third-penny sales tax package tied to it. Ewing said estimates have reached $18 million.
"It may be that we need to rethink that entire project," he said. "Either that or we need to find a private partner to make this happen and move it down the road."
Meanwhile, the task force, which was established early this year, has broken into committees to tackle a variety of issues.
A signage committee is examining best practices in other cities to promote and encourage the use of neon signs by Route 66 businesses.
In this fiscal year's budget, the city allotted $50,000 as part of a pilot program to offer grants to help businesses pay for neon sign upgrades.
The business development committee is creating a network of all of the businesses and stakeholders along Tulsa's Route 66.
Tulsa's 23 miles of Route 66 are being broken down into segments, which will have block captains to improve communications and group efforts.
The committee also wants to educate businesses about the different types of Route 66 grants available to them nationally for improvements.
An events committee is working to start annual events along Route 66 such as parades, runs and festivals to draw more people in.
The task force also has a branding committee, which is striving to improve the Route 66 markings through Tulsa so that it is easier for tourists to find and follow.
A formal request has been made to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for Route 66 navigation signs near all Interstate 44 exits. The committee also has inventoried all of the brown Route 66 historic signs and made a list of possible future sites.
The committee also would like to see better Route 66 street signs on the intersection masts.
Aaron Meek and Katie Plohocky, both members of the task force, said the No. 1 complaint they hear about Tulsa's stretch is that it's hard to find.
"Route 66 is traveled by a lot of people from all over the world, but they have to be able to find their way," said Meek, who has the Campbell Hotel, the 11th Street Lofts and other property along the route.
Ewing said he plans to work with the task force to come up with a list of needs, such as improved street signs, that could be funded in next year's Fix Our Streets/Third Penny tax extension.
Plohocky agreed with Ewing that while all of the different committees have their own focuses, the overarching goal is to create a destination.
"People want photo opportunities," she said. "They want attractions. And in turn, we will entice them to stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants and shop in our businesses."
Ewing said he sees the city's task force working through 2013 and then possibly evolving into a nonprofit or taking some other form to continue its efforts.
"I'm not all about government making over Route 66," he said. "But I am about giving people a little nudge and then getting out of the way for them to create something that's awesome."
What: "East Meets West" dedication
When: 2 p.m. Friday
Where: Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive
About the statue
The 20,000-pound bronze sculpture, 135 percent of actual size, puts the finishing touch on the landmark Route 66 plaza, built in 2008.
A memorial to Cyrus Avery, "Father of Route 66," the artwork is 40 feet long, 15 feet wide and 14 feet high. The $1,177,841 sculpture was designed by Texas artist Robert Summers.
"East Meets West" tells the story of an encounter between the Avery family riding in a vintage 1926 Model-T Ford and a horse-drawn wagon coming from the west Tulsa oil fields. The wagon driver has his hands full with his horses rearing up from being startled by the automobile. As the figure representing Cyrus Avery exits his vehicle and is standing with one foot on the running board, his wife reaches back for their daughter who is fighting a losing battle with her startled cat. The sculpture includes a dog leaning over the side of the wagon, barking at the unfolding events.
Avery served as Tulsa County commissioner, Oklahoma highway commissioner and consulting highway specialist to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. His influence and efforts with the bureau created a highway that stretched across eight states and three time zones from Chicago to Los Angeles - a road that would become known as Route 66.
Original Print Headline: Bringing kicks to 66
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
The "East Meets West" bronze statue was recently installed at the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive. It will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
The massive bronze depicts a wagon driver (seen here) as he encounters the Cyrus Avery family riding in a Model-T. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World