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2021

Guide Muskogee

& Annual Progress Forecast

 Pandemic changes city, possibly forever  MKARNS connects America’s heartland to rest of world  Get to know your area school districts  Discover a local park to be active, have fun or enjoy a family picnic

SPRING 2021

I N S I D E t h is edi t i o n

MUSKOGEE

muskogeephoenix.com


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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021


BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD When the storm clears, we will gather again. To hugs, to play, to laughter. Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and Resort Collection hotels and spas will be here to welcome you. Stay safe. rtjgolf.com

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Guide Muskogee

& Annual Progress Forecast

Publisher

Ed Choate Editor

Elizabeth Ridenour L ay o u t a n d D e s i g n

Joshua Cagle

Contributing Writers

Ronn Rowland D.E. Smoot Cathy Spaulding

Advertising Sales Executives

Kristina Hight Angela Jackson Therese Lewis Krysta Aich

What’s new in Muskogee CITY

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Pandemic changes city Adjustments provide services that enhance accessibility.

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Waterway commerce MKARNS hailed as largest civil works project in nation's history.

MUSKOGEE muskogeephoenix.com

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Business

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Back to business

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Business is booming

Muskogee Tourism Authority Medical marijuana has positive seeks to reopen events across city. impact on city's collections.

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Challenge after challenge Georgia-Pacific details recovery from fire, pandemic response.

Business Matters is a publication of the

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Going with the flow Establishments stay afloat by amending business practices.

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Ups and downs

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Pandemic persistence ICTC manages to cope with COVID-19 through protocols.

Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content in any manner without permission is prohibited.

Facing the unknown

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Connors adjusts to educating students during a pandemic.

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Local hub for health care NSU Muskogee campus expands health care class selections.

214 Wall Street Muskogee, OK 74401 Phone: (918) 684-2828 Email: news@muskogeephoenix.com

Address advertising inquiries to (918) 684-2894.

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E d u c ati o n

Muskogee Public Schools' students witness many changes.

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'Everything changed' Hilldale superintendent discusses the impact the pandemic had on the district.

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Adapting virtual learning Fort Gibson reiterates the importance of teacher access.

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Bacone looks forward School takes on challenges of pandemic, revitalizing college.

Getting to know your city On the Cover

Muskogee Mayor Marlon Coleman spoke about the savings the city will have by using solar panels to power the Muskogee Civic Center. Photo by D.E. Smoot

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

Government

S e r v ic e s

47 Muskogee City Council

52 Lake Area United Way service organizations

48 Muskogee County Commissioners 49 Public Safety

H e a lth & Wellness

49 State Elected Officials

54 Fitness Activities

56 Health Care Facilities

Q u a l ity o f Li f e 58 New opportunities 62 Muskogee City Parks


SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL MUSKOGEE As part of Saint Francis Health System, Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee and Warren Clinic Muskogee provide a comprehensive range of healthcare services. Our high-quality inpatient and outpatient care includes a number of medical specialties as well as 24/7 emergency services, labor and delivery, cardiology and cancer care. Your family’s healthcare delivered by medical professionals you know and trust, and the support of Oklahoma’s largest healthcare network—you’ll find it all right here, close to home. For more information or to find a physician, please visit saintfrancis.com/muskogee or call 918-682-5501.

SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL MUSKOGEE AND WARREN CLINIC MUSKOGEE SERVICES INCLUDE: 24/7 emergency room

Hospital medicine

Podiatry

Behavioral health – inpatient (55+)

Imaging and Radiology

Pulmonary rehabilitation

Intensive care

Radiation oncology

Behavioral health – outpatient (senior)

Internal medicine

Sleep medicine

Labor and delivery

Sports medicine

Laboratory services

Stroke follow-up clinic

Neonatology Nephrology

Surgery (general and robotic)

Cardiology (interventional)

Obstetrics and gynecology

Urology

Ear, nose and throat

Oncology

Women’s health services

Family medicine

Orthopedics (general)

Gastroenterology

Orthopedics (surgical)

Wound care and hyperbaric medicine

Hematology

Physical rehabilitation (inpatient and outpatient)

Breast health services Cardiac rehabilitation Cardiology (general)

24/7 EMERGENCY CARE Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee 300 Rockefeller Drive | 918-682-5501

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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City

Some changes may stick around Pandemic prompts adjustments to enhance accessibility

Mayor Marlon Coleman discusses the schedule for improvements for North 24th Street before a one-block stretch at Okmulgee Avenue was opened in October.

By D.E. Smoot

Muskogee Phoenix

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ocal governments made operational adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic that were necessary to continue providing services. Responding to the pandemic and mitigating its impact on services cost municipalities millions of dollars. Those

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

cities and counties will share $130.2 billion that was included in the American Rescue Plan, the pandemic relief package passed by Congress in March. Those funds may be used by local governments to provide assistance for small businesses and industries impacted

by the pandemic, and for premium pay for essential workers. It may be used to cover expenses lost while providing services during the pandemic, or to invest in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. Muskogee City Manager Mike Miller said no decision has been made about

how those funds will be used, but they will not be used for general budgeting purposes. He said the city’s annual budget has not, and will not, be “planned around any of that funding.” “We would consider any federal money that comes our way, we would look at it


City

Muskogee street worker John Sutton, left, smooths asphalt across a street cut on Tamaroa Street near Seventh Street, while coworker Timothy Braden Jr. passes by.

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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City

A H&G Paving Contractor worker digs under 24th Street just north of Okmulgee Avenue. (File photo)

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City as one-time funding that we may be able to use to tackle something we would not have been able to do otherwise,” Miller said. “We would use it for something that would benefit our community — we would align that with councilors’ priorities.” Miller said the city’s finances weathered the pandemic better than initial projections, which included a 10% decline in revenue. Consumer spending, he said, was buoyed by pandemic relief aid — extended unemployment payments and various assistance programs for businesses. There were adjustments made to continue providing services while working remotely that may continue once pandemic protocols are part of the past. Miller said those changes include improvements that enhance accessibility “to our community in remote ways.” “We learned as a community we are resilient and resourceful and kind,” Miller said. “We helped each other get through to this point — while it certainly is not over, I think we can see the finish line — and we are better for it.”

Mayor Marlon Coleman, left, and Interim Public Works Director Mike Stewart discuss the schedule for improvements for North 24th Street before a one-block stretch at Okmulgee Avenue was opened in October. (File photo)

Armstrong Bank’s commitment to make our communities better resonates throughout our organization. We stand ready to serve you safely and confidently. MUSKOGEE

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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City

River remains important to city MKARNS connects America’s heartland to rest of world By D.E. Smoot

Muskogee Phoenix

Looking downstream on the Arkansas River about five miles northwest of Webbers Falls in Muskogee County this picture shows the construction of the powerhouse and three remaining gates of the spillway at Webbers Falls Lock and Dam. The completed lock is at the left end of the spillway. The project was 55 percent complete. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

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ailed as the largest civil works project in this nation’s history, the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System connects America’s heartland to the world. The 445-mile inland waterway supports commerce across a 12-state

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

region and stretches across two states before it joins the Mississippi River and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The marine highway — completed 50 years ago at a reported cost of about $1.39 billion — would ring up today at $7.79 billion.

The river served as a transportation corridor for Native Americans, explorers and traders long before Oklahoma became a state. While construction of the navigation system was not authorized until 1946, when Congress passed the River and Harbor

Act, there were visionaries who saw its potential years before. Port of Muskogee Director Scott Robinson said Oklahoma’s first governor, Charles N. Haskell of Muskogee, was the “first proponent of navigation” on the scale that is seen today.


City The Corps of Engineers workboat, Sallisaw, locks through the Webbers Falls Lock at the official opening of the lock to navigation on Dec. 17, 1970. Webbers Falls Lock and Dam is complete, but the power plant is still under construction. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

Workers transform a river into an inland navigation system, the largest public works project in the United States. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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City

Manufacturers store raw materials at the Port of Muskogee after the commodities arrive by barge, in some instances from foreign ports of origin. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

“He doesn’t really get much recognition because he was so early,” Robinson said. “The real push came a decade, maybe two decades later.” Heavy rainfall across eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas in 1927 caused severe flooding below Fort Smith, Arkansas, where gauges registered the highest ever recorded at the time. Three years earlier, flooding in Tulsa had displaced about 4,000 people, and Muskogee’s flood of record oc-

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curred in 1943. Robinson said all that came together at a time when U.S. Sen. Robert S. “Kerr just happened to be the most powerful person in the United States government.” Kerr served in the Senate with John L. McClellan of Arkansas, another powerful senator who helped implement the vision of the inland navigation system that had grown during the preceding decades.

While they were able to pass the legislation authorizing the inland navigation system, Robinson said a moratorium on spending prompted by the Korean War stalled the project. It took until 1955 until Congress appropriated funds for the project. “When the Republican Congress at the time was trying to push through Eisenhower’s highway plan, we just so happened to have a freshman congressman by the name of Ed Edmondson who stood up


City

A heavy equipment operator loads material that arrived by barge onto railroad cars, which will carry it to a local manufacturer. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

on the House floor and proposed an amendment that led to the appropriation,” Robinson recalled a few years back. It was “the first dollar appropriated for the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System.” City and county officials created the Muskogee Port Commission in 1962, appointing Muskogee merchant Harold Scoggins to serve as chairman. Commissioners hired a New York-based engineering firm to study potential sites, and once that

decision was made voters approved a $1.3 million bond to fund construction of the Port of Muskogee, which opened in December 1970 — 99 years after the railroad first arrived in Muskogee. The first barges arrived in Muskogee carrying pipe for natural gas pipeline. Robinson said the oil and gas industry remains one of the port’s heaviest users. During the first 50 years of operations, Robinson

said the Cherokee Nation and other tribal governments have become an important partners. That partnership started off on rocky footing in 1971, he said, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes owned the riverbed of the Arkansas River. Robinson said the port authority appealed a subsequent decision and while that decision was pending negotiated a franchise agreement with the

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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City

A barge docked at the Port of Muskogee is loaded with scrap steel collected locally and shipped elsewhere for recycling. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

Cherokee Nation. The agreement includes a 50-year lease for the port property with an option to renew. “It came to our attention really that, you know, we really don’t need to continue to feel like there’s an adversarial relationship — it is what it is,” Robinson said. “What the navigation system means to all the parties, we’ve learned, is different, but we have a really good working relationship with the Cherokees and with the Creeks as well.” A recent study found that during the 20 years before construction of MKARNS, traffic on the Arkansas River ranged from 500,000 tons to 1 million tons a year. After construction was completed, traffic rapidly increased to about 10 million tons annually during the first eight years. One Arkansas River Navigation Study and Final Feasibility Report published by Arkansas Economic Development Institute found traffic declined and stabilized at about 8 million tons a year throughout the 1980s. Data show it increased during the 1990s and grew to an estimated level of 12.9 million tons in 2004, exceeding what the Corps predicted in 1990. In addition to serving the manufacturing base, the Port of Muskogee is one of very few ports that feature a recreation component. The River Center at Three Forks Harbor and the marina attracts families and tourists and fishing tournaments.

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021


City

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews perform maintenance work at Webbers Falls Lock & Dam 16, located downstream from the Port of Muskogee. (Courtesy of Corps of Engineers)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Insurance

Appraisals

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Automotive

Insurance

Contractors

Insurance

Home Inspections

Medical Scrubs & Accessories

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021


CLIMBING BACK IN 2021

Dal-Tile thanks and salutes its team members, family and friends as we all faced the extreme challenges of the last couple of years. 2019 was the year of the flood. 2020 brought us all the dreaded COVID-19 which we continue to navigate through. 2021 is our year to be back! We are proud to announce that the Muskogee plant is back to running at capacity. Additionally, we are now in the ceramic plank business thanks to a capital investment in the plant of over $2m in 2020. Ceramic Plank Tile is one of the top selections for residential flooring and this investment in this community brings extra jobs and opportunities. Also, we’ve added new team members in our raw materials as well as the additional capital investment of new equipment. Dal-Tile Muskogee has 365 of the best Operators in the area and we currently have Maintenance and Operator positions available immediately. Apply through www.DalTileCareers.com

Proudly Made in Muskogee OK!!

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Business

Events set to return Muskogee Tourism Authority ready to welcome visitors back By Ronn Rowland

Muskogee Phoenix

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isitors to the Muskogee area were limited in the last year because of coronavirus restrictions and event cancellations. However, Muskogee Tourism Authority Director Justin O’Neal said 2021 will see a return of many of the attractions that were postponed in 2020. “2021 will see the return of many events such as the Muskogee Azalea Festival in April, the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival in May, the Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning this summer and the Exchange Club Chili and BBQ Cook-off happening on a new date — June 11 and 12,” he said. “Within these next few months as the vaccine is more readily available, we will see more events fill our calendar, though they may look different in the first year post-pandemic.” O’Neal says the main aspect for the Authority is to promote the city. “The MTA has a focus on marketing the city and bringing in visitors from all over to enjoy our city,” he said. “We are working with numerous event organizers and attraction operators to maximize marketing efforts and assist in any way possible as they navigate reopening.” While all businesses were impacted by COVID-19 in some form or fashion, the tourism industry in Muskogee took a big hit because of travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. “Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic can be felt in all aspects of tourism,” O’Neal said. “While places like Hatbox Field had record years from being able to host events with proper social distancing and safety options, museums

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

like the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Three Rivers Museum and Muskogee War Memorial Park, which is still suffering from flood repercussions, have taken the hardest hit. On the other side of tourism, hotels have also taken a massive hit as travel numbers have been down.” When comparing the first six months to the last six months of Pandemic Year One, O’Neal says it’s panic versus optimism. “The first six months were spent in panic mode,” he said. “Experts changed their future predictions almost daily and there was no real answer to what the future had in store. Locally, we saw most all events cancel or make major changes to their plans, and as a tourism department we shifted all marketing efforts to encouraging people to get outside to enjoy the parks and other socially distanced events. “In the last six months we have seen a change of optimism come back and we are starting to see plans come back to life and events take place.” But, O’Neal did say we should not let our guard down when it comes to hosting events. “For now, it is still a very touch and go time, as we are thankful vaccines are being given daily, and the numbers continue to be on the decline,” he said. “We are headed in the right direction, but we are not in the clear just yet. With events scheduled or planning to take place in 2021, we encourage everyone to wear masks, wash hands, social distance and still take the proper precautions so that we can finally end this crazy chapter.”

The Oklahoma Festival of Ballooning will return this year after a one-year absence because of the coronavirus. (File photo)


Business Jeannette Lockwood, left, holds her taster tray out for Ayrius Parish of Warner’s Rattlesnake Mountain Smoke House so he can serve barbecue during the 2019 Exchange Club of Muskogee Chili and Barbecue Cook-Off. This year’s event, the 36th annual, will be held June 1213. (File photo)

Members of Muskogee County 4-H show off their favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz” during the rain-soaked and shortened Azalea Festival Parade in 2019. “Movies to Remember” was the theme of the 2019 parade. (File photo)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Business

The Georgia-Pacific Muskogee Mill is slowly readjusting to the pandemic work environment. (GEORGIA-PACIFIC/Submitted)

Recovering from double whammy 2019 fire, COVID-19 takes toll on Georgia-Pacific plant By Ronn Rowland

Muskogee Phoenix

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ust when the Georgia-Pacific Muskogee mill had seemed to recover from the 2019 fire, along came the novel coronavirus that put another damper on the plant. Jennifer Rector, public affairs and communication manager for the plant, said that COVID-19 “forced us all to change the way we live and conduct business.” “It has been a challenging year for everyone,” she said. “Our workforce

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has displayed remarkable resiliency and determination as we worked through this pandemic. Our first focus has always been the health and safety of our team members, their families, and our communities. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, Georgia-Pacific has closely monitored and responded to guidance issued from federal, state and local governments and their agencies.” In the beginning of the pandemic,

Rector said G-P faced a dilemma when it came to its products, which include Angel Soft toilet paper and Sparkle paper towels. “Production initially saw a surge in demand with our retail bath tissue products, as many remember,” Rector said. “Almost overnight, the world went on the hunt for toilet paper, the supply chain was constrained, and everyone became very interested in all the “stuff” Georgia-Pacific makes.

During this time, our focus remained on mitigation efforts within the mill and the community to ensure our operations could continue to produce products that were and continue to be in high demand.” She also went on to say when the demand of its professional products declined, the impact was felt by employees. “During the height of the pandemic, travel all but stopped, along with


Business Rolls of toilet paper proceed down the conveyor system on their way to the packaging station. (GEORGIA-PACIFIC/Submitted)

A late night fire forced Georgia-Pacific employees to evacuate the mill on May 13, 2019 when an explosion caused a fire at the mill. Employees were allowed to return to the Mill seven days later. (File photo)

A forklift operator moves a package of paper products to a storage area at the Georgia-Pacific Mill. (GEORGIA-PACIFIC/Submitted)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Business

Jennifer Rector, public affairs and communications manager for the Georgia-Pacific Mill in Muskogee, said in July 2020 that nearly 10% of the mill’s workers were being laid off, coming from the pro products line, which produces supplies for offices, airports, restaurants, hotels and sporting arenas. (GEORGIA-PACIFIC/Submitted)

large-scale events — this led to a decline in demand for our professional products,” Rector said. “Because we match production to meet consumer demand, the decline in this market forced us to curtail some of these professional product lines, which many may remember hearing about over the summer temporarily impacting some of our employees. Fortunately, that impact to our employees was short lived, and now the mill continues to

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work on the new normal for our product mix to support our customers one year after the pandemic started.” Rector said that through everything the plant has experienced in the past two years, the support from the community has been “humbling.” “As we emerge from the challenges of the 2019 fire, combined by the disruption in business from the pandemic, we have been proud to begin work to give back some of that support to

those who have been there throughout this journey,” she said. “For example, in November, we were proud to present the City of Muskogee Fire Department with a Bucket Brigade grant to thank the department for its quick response and heroic actions that kept a dangerous situation from tragic results.” As the mill looks forward, Rector said the events of the past two years has been an educational experience.

“Georgia-Pacific and the Muskogee Mill team members have learned that tough times don’t last; tough people really do. We know what it means to act with integrity and respect through times of adversity,” she said. “The fire, the pandemic, and even more recently the cold weather impacts in February have taught the mill the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and creative problem solving to overcome challenges and hardships.”


We’ve Got Your Back, Muskogee! Georgia-Pacific and our Muskogee Mill team members know tough times don’t last; tough people really do. We know what it means to act with integrity and respect through times of adversity. We are fortunate to operate in a community that is aligned with our guiding principles. Thank you, Muskogee, for your support during a year like no other.

©2021 Georgia-Pacific LLC. All rights reserved.


Business

Businesses adjust to virus restrictions Adjustments aim to keep customers not only safe but happy By Ronn Rowland

Muskogee Phoenix

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t’s been a rough year for businesses having to deal the restrictions put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some establishments have had to close their doors and some have managed to stay afloat. Okie Outfitters Company, a store for apparel, gifts and outdoor speciality items for men at 113 N. Main St. that opened in November, had to deal with opening a new establishment right in the middle of the outbreak. General manager Stacy Pemberton said being flexible has been the main theme of the business.

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

“We’ve always done this, even at our women’s store, ‘The Festive Nest,’” Pemberton said. “Making sure that we’re flexible to meet the needs all of our customers. If somebody wants something here in town delivered, or if they want to swing by and let us invoice them or they want to call us and get what ever they want or need, we can have it ready to go when they come in.” Other businesses have had to make adjustments to not only keep safe but to keep customers happy. Tracy Scott, owner of Dolce Salon, 113 W. Broadway, said it’s been difficult

for her new employees. “I’ve been in the business for 28 years and have a steady clientele,” she said. “However, my new stylists don’t, so it’s been a struggle for them.” She also said she’s had to provide products to attract new clients and keep them returning. “We have to offer services that are different,” Scott said. “We offer skin care along with hair care. So we do get a lot of skin care.” Pemberton said she has noticed that traffic has picked up in stores all around town. “The more people that are getting

vaccinated, the more they are comfortable getting out and about,” she said. “We’ve had a lot really, really good respectful customers that are really good about making sure that they comply with our mask mandates when they come in.” Scott has listened to her clients and addressed their worries. “If they want to be the only ones in the studio, we will make sure that happens,” she said. “We have to wear masks and we ask that they do as well. The mask mandate is wearing on everyone, but we want to keep everyone as safe as we can.”


Business

Dolce Salon, 113 W. Broadway, has had to make adjustments to clients’ needs during the pandemic. Dolce in Italian means sweet, thus the salon’s motto “Dolce from head 2 toe.” (RONN ROWLAND/Muskogee Phoenix)

Clothing and accessories are some of the many items available for men at Okie Outfitters Company on North Main Street. The store branched off from The Festive Nest, opening in November. (RONN ROWLAND/Muskogee Phoenix)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Business

Cannabis boosts city’s coffers Councilors seek to capitalize on medical marijuana industry By D.E. Smoot

Muskogee Phoenix

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edical marijuana is booming in the Sooner State, with revenue from excise and sales taxes mushrooming along with licensing fees. The Oklahoma Tax Commission collected $54.45 million from the Medical Marijuana Excise Tax during the calendar year 2020 — an average of about $4.54 million per month. During the first two months of this year, the agency reported a 76% increase in tax revenue from the medical cannabis industry. Since the state began regulating medical marijuana in 2018, 7,004 growers have been licensed along with 2,144 dispensaries, and 76 transportation operators. Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market has grown to become the largest of 34 states where it is legal for medical or recreational use on a per capita basis with almost 9% of the population — 368,330 patients — licensed. In addition to the excise tax collected by the state for sales, cities, counties and the state collect traditional sales taxes. City Manager Mike Miller said that is a data point that is tracked regularly. “It has a positive impact on our tax collections, but I don’t think that is the driving force behind the positive sales tax reports we have seen the past few months,” Miller said. “Muskogee has a strong retail sector that continues to grow — medical marijuana is a part of that, but it certainly is not all of it.” City councilors are looking at ways to capitalize off the industry other than the direct market. Trade shows and tourism is a target at which they are taking aim. Ward II Councilors Alex Reynolds and Traci McGee said trade shows attract business insiders who can help local businesses capitalize on what the fledgling industry could offer. They have pushed for rules that would allows areas to medicate during these events.

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

Okie Medical MMJ Dispensary, located on 431-1/2 W. Broadway in Muskogee, is one of the nearly 2,200 dispensaries that have opened in the state of Oklahoma since 2018. (RONN ROWLAND/Muskogee Phoenix)


Business

Dispensaries offer several flavors and aromas of medical marijuana for patients to satisfy their needs. (RONN ROWLAND/ Muskogee Phoenix)

A patient can purchase other medical marijuana products and oils to help them remedy their situation. (RONN ROWLAND/ Muskogee Phoenix)

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GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Business

Distiller navigates twists, turns Cane Creek Distillery makes sanitizer to fill void left by pandemic By D.E. Smoot

Muskogee Phoenix

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raversing the global pandemic took more twists and turns than the copper tubing at Cane Creek Distillery. Steve Allen began pumping out hand sanitizer almost a year ago from his craft distillery in Boynton in response to a national call to action. Hand sanitizer became scarce immediately after the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau provided recipes. Cane Creek Distillery provided the hand sanitizer to police, firefighters and other first responders. The distillery also packaged and sold the product, filling a void left in the national supply chain. “They begged all of us to make hand sanitizer,” Allen said, noting he still has enough sanitizer to fill half of a shipping container, which he will provide at no cost to schools that will pick it up. “It’s just sitting out there — it’s not doing those kids any good if it’s sitting out there.” Allen said he “can’t really say the pandemic really had an impact on the business” this past year. His plans for the distillery, however, took a few unexpected

Steve Allen shows off the last leg of his still’s production process, where whiskey drips into a storage barrel. (File photo) turns. After converting operations to crank out the virus-killing gel and then trying to find schools to take the surplus sanitizer off his hands, Allen was forced

to find a new distributor for the distillery’s Muscogee Mash. Another distributor “quit us over the hand sanitizer, I guess, because he wasn’t getting his cut.” In December, craft distillers that an-

swered the call for hand sanitizer received notices from the Food and Drug Administration. Allen said the federal agency had planned to levy a $14,000 fee it traditionally collects from the makers of

SHOP. LOCAL. “Keep it in Muskogee” 28

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021


Business

Cane Creek Distillery owner Steven Allen works at a 300-gallon copper still, creating his Muscogee Mash Whiskey. (File photo) over-the-counter drugs. “They suspended all kinds of rules and everything else — begged us to do it — and then wanted us to pay a fee,” Allen said. “That’s like inviting somebody to come fish your pond and then tell ‘em they owe you $100 when they take you up on the offer.” Allen said craft distillers were able to shut down the effort to levy and collect the fee. He expressed additional optimism for a post-pandemic future as state legislators move measures that would put Oklahoma’s craft distilleries on equal footing with competitors in other states by authorizing on-site sales. “This will be a huge deal for us — I have been to over 70 distilleries in states that touch Oklahoma, and every one of them says more than 50% of their sales come out of their distillery,” Allen said.

“At that point, you can sell T-shirts and shot glasses ... It would be really nice to have a little gift shop and be able to do that.” Allen said he was “glad to be able to help” all those who benefited by having access to the hand sanitizer he and other craft distillers produced during the pandemic. And making the hand sanitizer “helped get our name out there and gave us some recognition,” but Allen’s ready to take the next step with Cane Creek Distillery. “We have been working on some new labels,” said Allen, who found a new distributor required by state law to sell his product. “We’ve got a couple new labels and we plan to have some new products — once we launch again we will be able to move forward and hopefully I won’t have to lay asphalt the rest of my life.”

Cane Creek Distillery founder and owner Steve Allen inspects a mash of barley and corn prior to its time in his still. (File photo)

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Education M u skogee P u b l ic S c h oo l s

Students’ year filled with ups, downs By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

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during the afternoon that will hings look different at expand our students’ horizons,” Muskogee Public Schools a year after the COVID-19 Mendenhall said. pandemic hit the area last spring. Assistant Superintendent Kim Students wear masks in classDyce said the summer school also rooms, in the hall, even in dramat- could help high school students ic productions. Buses often have recover uncompleted credits. their windows down to ensure Relief funding through the plenty of ventilation for their Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act the riders. Many students have been learning virtually from their homes Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I all year. and II) eased a lot of financial con“The COVID-19 pandemic cerns, Mendenhall has impacted our said. students,” MPS In May, MPS Superintendent received more Jarod Mendenhall than $2.6 million said. “In-person in CARES Act instruction is so funding. The valuable and needed for many of our allocations are students.” based on a school’s — Jarod Mendenhall Mendenhall proportion of Title said MPS and 1 funds, which schools across the are based on the state moved to distance learning percentage of low-income students. last spring. Public school buildings “There were additional expenses were closed across Oklahoma from in purchasing E-Learning software March through May. with nearly 25 percent of our High numbers of COVID-19 students enrolled in the E-Learncases prompted MPS to go totaling Academy, in addition to the ly virtual from mid-November various times that all students were through Christmas break. in virtual instruction,” Mendenhall “Then there are some students said. who have been in close contact Although Mendenhall stresses numerous times,” Mendenhall said. the value of in-person learning, “That interruption of the norm for many students will continue those students is negatively impact- learning virtually, even after the ing their education.” pandemic. MPS will offer a 10-week sumMPS plans to use Whittier Elemer school to help students make mentary as a virtual learning hub. up COVID-related academic losses, “This will allow students enMendenhall said. rolled in virtual instruction to have “This 10-week program will a location where they can meet focus on English/language arts and with a teacher if additional, in-permath but will also have activities son instruction is needed,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our students.”

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Muskogee High School students Charles Mason, left, Lyndsey Eckerson and other cast members wear face masks while rehearsing for the recent MHS musical “Bright Star.” Cast members wore masks during the production. (Cathy Spaulding) Pershing Elementary Principal Meleah Hoskins visits with kindergartners in early January. It was their first day back to the classroom since Nov. 13. (File photo)


Education By the Numbers FUND I N G S OU RCE S

Enrollment:

muskogee

Local:

$10,733,081.32 State:

$28,604,480.49 Federal:

$5,215,593.64 Total projected:

$45,594,981.47 B U I L D I N G P R I N C I PA L S: Muskogee High School: Mickey Replogle Rougher Alternative Academy: Heather Jones 7th & 8th Grade Academy: Ryan Buell 6th Grade Academy: Karen Watkins Creek Elementary: Andrea Sagely New Tech @ Cherokee Elementary: Reubin McIntosh Irving Elementary: Katy Thomson Pershing Elementary: Meleah Hoskins Sadler Arts Academy: Ronia Davison Tony Goetz Elementary: Sarah McWilliams Whittier Elementary: Lisa Rogers Early Childhood Center: Malinda Lindsey

4,757

Support Staff:

290

Certified Staff: Administrators: (excluding administration)

341

County:

$1,041,826.02

Students:

43

Director of Security: Dan Hall Director of Facilities: Odell Superintendent: Jarod Alexander Mendenhall Director of Child Nutrition: Kim Assistant Superintendent: Kim Hall Dyce Director of Student Services: Chief Financial Officer: John Ginger James Little Director of Special Education: Chief Administrative Officer: Veronica Teague Lance Crawley Director of Curriculum and Chief Operating and Technology Indian Education: Lisa Yahola Officer: Eric Wells Director of Athletics: Jason Executive Director of Human Parker Resources: Kim Fleak Instructional Technology Director of Communication & Coordinator: Justin Walker Marketing: Steve Braun Fine Arts Coordinator: Jerry Director of Accounting: David Huffer Chester Community and Family Executive Administrative Resources Coordinator: Lori Assistant: Carla Cooper Jefferson Director of Transportation: Brad Special Education Compliance Smythe Coordinator: Amy Pool District leadership

including cabinet, coordinators and directors

Jerome Jones sprays a Muskogee Public Schools bus interior with disinfectant. MPS route buses are disinfected after each route. (STEVE BRAUN/Submitted)

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Education I ndian C apita l T ec h no l og y C enter

ICTC avoids closing during pandemic By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

I

ndian Capital Technology Center is coping with the pandemic better than expected at the start of the 2021 school year last August, said ICTC Superintendent Tony Pivec. “Sometimes you go into an unknown situation such as COVID-19 and you plan for the worst and expect the best,” he said. “We ended up coming out on the positive end of a lot of things. Our planning was really good, mostly because of our staff.” He said ICTC has not had to close its campus due COVID-19 since August. “We’ve had virtual days, and we closed campus because of the winter storm,” he said. “We’ve had a class or two that had to quarantine for 14 days. And we’ve had individual students and faculty who have had to quarantine, but we have not had to close campus.” Pivec attributed part of the success to strict protocols, including social distancing, requiring masks and temperature checks. “Vaccination has had a significant difference,” he said. “You also have a segment of the population that has had it and is not getting reinfected.” He said virtual learning challenged several instructors, “especially those who are adept at hands-on training.”

“The learning curve in our virtual classes has not been as good as our hands-on classes,” he said. However, virtual learning has enabled ICTC to set up what Pivec called a “video bank of lessons.” “If we have a student who had a longterm illness or an auto accident where they’re out for a significant time, because of our video bank, we’ll still be able to help that student,” he said. ICTC campuses have helped their communities throughout the pandemic. Last April, ICTC’s Muskogee campus used its 3-D printer to make face mask filters for health care workers. District 1 Muskogee County Commissioner Ken Doke issued a call for such filters to stem possible shortages. The Muskogee Public Schools fabrication lab, Muskogee Public Library, Optronics and Advantage Controls also offered their 3-D printers. “That was another demonstration with how effective our relationships are with business and industry,” Pivec said. Nursing students from ICTC’s Muskogee and Sallisaw campuses participated in a community COVID vaccine clinic in Sequoyah County, Pivec said. “We’ve also got Muskogee students who will be helping with a local clinic with vaccinations as well,” he said.

Indian Capital Technology Center nursing students pause while helping out at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Sallisaw Middle School. ICTC Muskogee students will help at a Muskogee vaccination clinic soon. (ANESA HOOPER/Submitted)

Indian Capital Technology Center students wear masks and keep socially distanced while occupational therapy assistant department chair Jeanne Gorman teaches a class. (Cathy Spaulding)

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Education By the Numbers Mus kogee C ampus Total Students:

521

Number of High School Students:

452

Number of Adult Students:

69

Male:

307 Female:

214

E TH N I C I T Y: White:

54%

Locations Four campus locations districtwide. Muskogee Campus: 2403 N. 41st St. East, Muskogee; (918) 687-6383 Sallisaw Campus: 401 E. Houser Industrial Blvd., Sallisaw; (918) 775-9119 Stilwell Campus: Rt. 6 Box 3320 (Oklahoma 59 and Maryetta Road), Stilwell; (918) 696-3111 Tahlequah Campus: 240 CareerTech Way (Vo-Tech Road), Tahlequah, (918) 456-2594 Adult Health Careers Campus: 2403 N. 41st St. East, Muskogee; (918) 348-7998

African American:

8%

Hispanic:

7%

Other:

0%

AD U LT TUITION, FEES These vary based on the program in which the student is enrolled.

Native American:

31%

Indian Capital Technology Center drafting and design instructor Shannon Barnes picks up a plastic mask filter made by a computerized 3-D printer. ICTC used its printer to help keep health care workers equipped with mask filters last April. (File photo)

Top courses at the M us kogee C ampus Health careers certification, cosmetology, electricity, information technology, HVAC, graphic communications.

Faculty

(IC TC-Muskogee campus) :

67

Full-time certified: 46 Adjunct or other: 1

An Indian Capital Technology Center slogan stretches along an inside wall at the ICTC Muskogee campus. (Cathy Spaulding)

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Skilled Nursing & Therapy Sometimes a single event can change your life. Perhaps it is an unexpected health emergency such as a stroke or heart attack. When difficulties take place, our clinical staff, including our certified Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists, are available to help you regain independence, mobility and function at your own pace. Our staff respects your needs every step of the way. Skilled therapy can offer a highly effective follow-on regimen to a qualifying hospital stay for conditions including strokes, heart attacks, surgery, broken bones, joint replacement, & respiratory illness.

Long-Term Care Our long-term care residents receive nursing care while still enjoying daily opportunities to socialize and be active. Our experienced staff supports the daily routine of our residents by assisting with daily living activities and healthcare coordination.

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5800 W. OKMULGEE AVENUE | Call 918.683.2914 to schedule a private tour.

At The Springs Skilled Nursing & Therapy, we believe in taking care of the

whole person — that’s why we’ve partnered with Muskogee Public Schools to create an innovative and interactive intergenerational schoolhouse, where children and elders can talk, play, and learn from each other.

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Education C onnors S tate C o l l ege

Connors finds ways around pandemic By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

C

onnors State College found he said. itself facing the unknown Virtual education also chalwhen the COVID-19 pan- lenged many students, especially in demic hit the area last spring. rural areas. “It’s changed the way we’ve “I know we’ve had students done things, the way everybody’s who may not have internet access done business,” said Connors Pres- or a proper device to access their ident Ronald Ramming. studies,” Ramming said. Students, faculty and staff must Connors’ outlook looks better wear masks on campus and in as active COVID-positive cases classrooms. They also must abide continue to decline, Ramming by social distancing and follow said. CDC guidelines the best way they “As numbers continue to can. decline, we’re looking forward to Fortunately, Connors has bring students back onto campus,” received plenty of communihe said. “We think that will be ty help from Warner, as well as better, especially for those students Muskogee. For example, before the who do not thrive in the virtual environment and 2021 school year for those students started, volunteers who do not have from Warner First the resources to Baptist Church thrive in that sewed about 2,000 environment.” masks for stuConnors has dents. made some perAdjusting to virtual classes has manent changes been the biggest in the past year, — Ronald Ramming change Ramming especially with said he’s seen in student advisethe past year. ment, he said. “Last spring, that was a quick “Our advisers and admissions pivot,” he said. “The faculty really folks put together a pretty sophistidid a good job of doing what they cated way of communicating with could to make sure we were still the students to make sure they delivering the education and mak- get the academic advisement they ing sure we’re giving our students need,” he said. “They can advise what they need.” face to face via video conference, Instructors of “hands on” or lab Zoom, even email now.” classes especially faced challenges. CSC progressed in other ways. “The nursing classes, the nursThe college got a Title 3 grant ing students still met in person, last October to develop computer but we tried to social distance degree programs. Ramming said the best we could,” he said. “The the main challenge now is finding ag classes were offered in person, faculty. while we did all we could to spread “There’s plenty of jobs in the people out.” workforce,” he said. “Employers Being outdoors helped for class- are looking for students with some es in the greenhouse and the barn, of these skills.”

“It’s changed the way we’ve done things, the way everybody’s done business.”

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Connors State College students wear masks and put masks on as they enter a classroom building on the Warner campus. Masks have been required on the Warner and Muskogee campuses since the start of the fall semester. (File photo)


Education By the Numbers Student I nformation: Number of Students: 2,068 Male: 640 Female: 1,428

E TH N I C I T Y*: White:

1,390

Connors State College nursing students wear masks during the fall semester pinning ceremony. Health care continues to be a popular field of study at Connors. (CONNORS STATE COLLEGE/ Submitted)

Native American:

854

African American:

196

Other:

Students come from

20

In-State:

* Students are allowed to check multiple ethnicities on their admission.

Out of State:

2,021 38

International:

9 TUITION AND MANDATORY FEES, per hour Resident:

$153

Non-Resident:

$313.76

5 most popular majors 1. General Studies 2. Pre-Nursing 3. Nursing 4. Business Administration 5. Agriculture

FACULTY INFORMATION Number of tenured instructors: N/A Number of non-tenured instructors: 44 Male: 15 Female: 29 Adjunct faculty: 61 Number of faculty with doctorate degrees: 8 Percentage of faculty with doctorate degrees: 8%

BUDGE TS FY 2020 Total Budget:

$25,460,342

FY 2021 Total Budget:

$23,897,985

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Education N ort h eastern S tate Universit y

Campus becomes health care hub By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

W

ith programs in nursing, occupational therapy and nutritional science, Northeastern State University’s Muskogee campus has become the hub of its health science program, Campus Dean Kim Williams said. The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped NSU-Muskogee from expanding its health care programs with a physicians assistant degree program. The campus started its first class, or cohort, in October. “That’s a huge win, not only for the university, but for Muskogee and the surrounding areas,” Williams said. “The PA offers another opportunity for health care for people,

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especially in the rural areas, who can’t get to Tulsa, can’t get to Oklahoma City.” Williams said she sees NSU-Muskogee students responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. She cited occupational therapy as an example. “A lot of people who are coming out of COVID sometimes need some of that intense occupational therapy,” she said. “So we have seen an uptick in the need for occupational therapists. That’s been good for our program. They see it as a career opportunity that maybe they didn’t previously.” The hands-on nature of the health care classes prompted the campus to return to

Northeastern State University physician assistant student Jaclyn Galdamez, left, checks student Morgan Foshee’s heart and breathing during a simulated examination. NSU’s Muskogee campus started a physician’s assistant program last October. (File photo) face-to-face learning as quickly as possible, she said. “Our students have done well. They’ve followed the protocols,” Williams said. “We really have had very low numbers as far as people having to be out or making any kind of accommodations.” Having a year interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic stunted campus recruiting efforts, Williams said. Recruiters have not been out in the community or visiting with employers, she said. “We had to be creative about how to reach out to those people,” she said. “You do virtual information sessions and virtual

advising sessions so students can be advised about their program. Or you set up a Zoom meeting and show them the website and how to navigate the application process.” Despite the pandemic, classes are at capacity, she said. “We really are focusing on adult students here,” she said. “We’re looking at people who are wanting to finish a degree that maybe they dropped out on, or they’re changing careers. A lot of our students here are graduate students. They already have a bachelor’s degree and they’ve embarked on a career and they’ve decided to go a different direction.”


Education By the Numbers Student I nformation: Each student noted is enrolled in at least one class at Muskogee (whether on ground or online).

Number of Students:

784 Male:

137 Female:

647

E TH N I C I T Y: White:

439

African American:

47

TUITION/Per credit Hour

Faculty & Staff Faculty information from 2019-2020; includes all faculty members teaching courses in programs based in Muskogee so there are a few full-time faculty members from other campuses who are included in the numbers below as part-time in Muskogee (particularly in Organizational Leadership); this does not include graduate teaching assistants or full-time staff/ administrators teaching as adjunct. Male Faculty: 6 Female Faculty: 18 Adjunct Faculty: Adjunct (part-time) faculty are included in the above numbers 12 part-time, 12 full-time, 24 total Number and percentage of faculty members with doctorate degrees: Calculated based on full-time – 10/12 = 83.3% Other Staff: 7

Native American: Other:

136

162

Northeastern State University Muskogee Campus 2400 W. Shawnee Bypass (918) 683-0040 www.nsuok.edu/ muskogee

Most popular undergraduate majors: Nutritional Sciences, B.S.; Nursing, B.S.N. (online); Organizational Leadership (online); Speech Language Pathology, B.S. Top Graduate majors based in Muskogee: Nursing, M.S.N. (online); Occupational Health, M.S.; Physician Assistant Studies, M.S.; Public Health, M.P.H.; Speech Language Pathology, M.S.

Students come from

716

$230.50*

Undergraduate Non-resident tuition:

$510.50*

Graduate Resident tuition:

$283.40*

Graduate Non-resident tuition:

$588.90*

Undergraduate Non-resident nursing tuition:

$231.50*

Undergraduate Resident Organizational Leadership tuition:

$258

Undergraduate Non-resident Organizational Leadership tuition:

$583

Graduate resident nursing tuition:

majors

In-State:

Undergraduate Resident tuition:

International:

9

$285.40*

Graduate non-resident nursing tuition:

$286.40*

Graduate Resident Occupational Therapy tuition:

$337.15*

Graduate Non-resident Occupational Therapy tuition:

$642.40*

Graduate Resident Physician Assistant tuition:

$335.40*

Graduate Non-resident Physician Assistant tuition:

$634.90

*Tuition and mandatory fees Source: https://offices.nsuok.edu/ admissions/Admission/Tuition-Fees

Out of State:

59

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Education Hi l l da l e P u b l ic S c h oo l s

Pandemic brought about changes By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

T

he COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than student habits and expectations. “It’s affected everything,” Superintendent Erik Puckett said. “Everything from child nutrition, to transportation to budget, most importantly on instruction. It changed everything in every way we tried to get business done in one calendar year.” Puckett said the district spent $1 million on technology because of the pandemic. “We tried to have technology available for our students and our staff,” he said. “We’re able to provide one-to-one technology, and the programs that go along with it. We spent an inordinate amount of money that really wasn’t budgeted in because of the pandemic.” COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government helped. Hilldale received $249,387 from the initial CARES Act last summer. “We got multiple funding sources from the federal government,” he said. “The latest one, we got just over $1.3 million, and we actually have not allocated or used any of that money. It does not have to be spent for a few more years. We will use it for all kinds of things, trying to protect our staff, so we can maintain our staffing levels or add to our staffing levels.” He said he expects the district to spend a lot of that money on technology, as well. Teachers have had to learn to adapt in using technology, Puckett said. “We learned different ways and modes of teaching.” he said. At least 300 students — 100 at

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each site — learn virtually through online classes, he said. As a result, fewer students ride the buses and fewer eat in cafeterias, Puckett said. “We’re still trying to do safety measures, too, about social distancing and wearing a mask,” he said. The district makes weekly food deliveries to students learning virtually, Puckett said. “We’ve been trying to deliver meals to families that have requested them for over a year now,” he said. Puckett said Hilldale is in better shape in dealing with the virus than it had been in months. The district will be completely one-to-one learning next year, with each child having a laptop or similar device, he said. Even with the changes in technology, Puckett said he hopes most students can return to in-person learning next year. “I won’t pull punches about it, in-person is the best way for a child to learn, period,” he said. “But if a parent chooses to go virtual next year, we will have a platform for them.” Hilldale had started a virtual school even before the pandemic and will continue the school. “We will hire a half-time virtual principal for next year,” he said. “And we’ll hire staff, and all they will do is work with virtual students if a parent chooses that.” The district plans no virtual days into its 2022 school year, Puckett. “The calendar will truly be an old school academic calendar,” he said. “We will be in-person every day. We built a couple of snow days into the calendar.”

Hilldale High School color guard members practice their flag routines in an open space inside the building. The flag work helps them keep a safe distance from each other. (CATHY SPAULDING/Muskogee Phoenix)

Hilldale High School water fountains feature spouts to fill water bottles and cups. It helps avoid contact with traditional spouts. (CATHY SPAULDING/ Muskogee Phoenix)


Education By the Numbers

F unding sources

(Amount from each fund)

School I nformation:

DISTRIC T LEAD ERSHIP

Enrollment:

Superintendent:

1,934

Certified staff: (excluding administration)

Local:

$1,807,329.12 County:

Erik Puckett

$35,386.36

Assistant Superintendents:

State:

Dr. Deborah Tennison, Chad

$10,146,280.34

Number of support workers:

Kirkhart

Federal:

Number of administrators:

Building Principals

Total projected:

121 76 9

$1,029,274.54 $13,018,270.54

Elementary: Patty Bilyard

500 E. Smith Ferry Road

Middle School: Darren Riddle High School:

(918) 683-0273

Josh Nixon

http://www.hilldale. k12.ok.us/ Hilldale High School students, from left, Morgan McWethy, Willow Johnson and Celeste Woods follow a life skills lesson on their laptops. (CATHY SPAULDING/ Muskogee Phoenix)

Hilldale High School senior Rhys Lipe works with his laptop in a life skills class. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Hilldale Public Schools to spend more on technology. (CATHY SPAULDING/Muskogee Phoenix)

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Education F ort G ibson P u b l ic S c h oo l s

Access to teachers makes difference By Cathy Spaulding

Muskogee Phoenix

F

ort Gibson Schools sought to keep the COVID-19 pandemic from affecting instruction and child nutrition. The pandemic also prompted the district to step up how it delivers virtual learning. “We have been utilizing virtual days on an as-needed basis for a decade, but the quick transition to full-time virtual learning called for quick adaptation on our teachers’ part,” Superintendent Scott Farmer said. “While we firmly believe there is no replacement for a great teacher in the classroom building relationships and instructing kids, our teachers and staff did a phenomenal job of taking on the task of virtual learning, adapting and making it better each day.” Some students did fall back some academically and lose some credits, Farmer said, adding that there are areas of growth. “Our staff knew this year would present challenges and they doubled down on ensuring we maximized every second we could spend with kids, and the results reflect their compassion and dedication to academic excellence,” Farmer said. Teachers also changed how they do virtual education. Fort Gibson High School and Middle School use digital meeting and classroom services to help students learn the same things online as they do in the classroom. Students studying at home sign into the digital meeting and classroom during

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what would be their regularly scheduled class. “Our delivery of a synchronous approach, one that tunes each student into a live teacher every hour and models the structure of a typical school day has garnered the most success and has the greatest potential to deliver quality instruction,” Farmer said. “Granting students hourly access to our great teachers and not just a learning platform is what makes the difference. It is a lot of work for the staff, but it’s also a true credit to the power and positive influence of a teacher. Fort Gibson’s child nutrition workers sought to keep students fed throughout the pandemic. Farmer said the workers have gone “above and beyond to innovate, seek federal waivers and reach kids where they are.” “Over the past year, we have served meals via delivery, takeout and dine-in,” Farmer said about the child nutrition staff. “They have expanded the offerings and did all that could be done to ensure every student had access to a nutritious meal regardless of circumstance or barrier that may exist.” Child nutrition workers also sought to keep needy students fed on weekends, as well as when frigid weather closed buildings in mid-February.

Fort Gibson High Advanced Placement American history students — from left Aidan Floyd, Noah Carter and Joseph Neves — and their teacher Cassandra Edwards stay masked and distanced during a class. (CATHY SPAULDING/ Muskogee Phoenix)


Education By the Numbers Information: Enrollment:

1,765

Administrators:

8

Support workers:

112

Certified teachers/staff: (excluding administration)

131

Funding sources Local:

$4,701,401.65

Fort Gibson child nutrition worker Tori Olivera wheels bagged lunches through the Tiger’s Den school cafeteria. The lunches are served to students on distance learning. (File photo)

County:

$333,373.33 State:

$7,208,010.59

A digital classroom and meeting system enables students learning online to connect to the same class traditional students take at Fort Gibson High School. (File photo)

Federal:

$1,150,221.05 Local Transfer of funds:

$199,841.43 Carryover:

$1,885,984.82 Grand Total:

$15,478,832.87 Central office: 500 S. Ross Ave. (918) 478-2474 http://www.ftgibson. k12.ok.us/

BUILDING PRINC IPALS: High School: Ben Pemberton; Assistant: Chuck London Middle School: Carrie Jo Willis; Assistant: Todd Friend Intermediate Elementary: Andrea Sifers Early Learning Center: Shelly Holderby

D istrict Leadership Superintendent: Scott Farmer Assistant Superintendent: Tom Stiles GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

43


Education

American Indian Studies class students learning how to take down and store the tipi. Second from middle is Director of Center for American Indians Aaron Adson. (Submitted)

B A C O N E C O LL E G E

Bacone recovering from financial woes By Mike Kays

Muskogee Phoenix

A

fter going through major organizational changes following a brief suspension of operations nearly three years ago, Bacone College faced another challenge with the pandemic. First, all classes embraced a hybrid learning modality involving Zoom software. With some CARES Act funding and learning how to use the software, that was the easy part. “The most difficult thing for our students is likely the lack of face-to-face interaction they previously enjoyed with one another, their faculty and their community,” said Wendy Burton, director of college relations and technology. “We’ve had to postpone major cultural events, athletic events and have graduation off-site in order to remain careful about social distancing.” Burton said students have found themselves quarantining in dorm rooms. Some of the things done to make that ordeal easier includes providing Wi-Fi internet access for students that allow them unlimited use for smart TVs and video game systems. “We’ve offered a wide variety of special presentations and guests during our weekly medicine hour via Zoom, and we’ve brought in food trucks late at night for their enjoyment,” she said. Meantime, Bacone is re-establishing its original purpose, which emphasized educational opportunities for tribal students, and has made continued progress there. “The Kiowa Tribe chartered us in 2020, joining the Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in supporting our mission to focus on educating American Indian students in a diverse educational environment, building trans-

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formational leaders for both Native and non-Native communities, said Dr. Ferlin Clark, Bacone president. “We continue to work toward becoming a tribal college, which will allow tribes ownership in the education of our students while building our sustainability with stable funding from the federal government in fulfillment of its trust responsibility to educate American Indian students.” Mary Jo Pratt, chief financial officer and vice president of finance, noted the school’s composite financial indicator has almost tripled from a .6 to a 1.8. She said this is based on four factors: institutional resource sufficiency and flexibility, an institution’s ability to manage debt, return on net assets such as endowment and investment, and net operating revenues. “We are continuing to realize stability. We are rebuilding financial confidence and bringing forth a healthy workplace emphasizing an ethical workplace culture and adherence to strong internal controls,” Pratt said. Major developments in 2021 included the revival of the golf and volleyball programs, beginning with the fall semester. Also, a major dormitory renovation is underway in the pod-style apartment buildings that will be ready this fall. The Palmer Center received a new basketball floor. Additionally, she said, maintenance upgrades in terms of LED lighting throughout campus have been installed and new heat and air systems are coming. This has also brought an expansion of its campus maintenance crew to include specialists in heat and air, concrete and masonry and construction, renovation and woodworking. Construction on a new baseball and softball facility is due to a city water main project that crosses campus and

Gerald Cournoyer, vice president of Development gives a presentation to National Daughters of the American Revolution President General Denise VanBuren and other Daughters in Ataloa Lodge museum. This is the first time in more than 30 years Bacone had a visit from the DAR President General. (Submitted) into the area where the facilities are planned. Softball is playing their spring games in Okmulgee while baseball has been suspended for a season. Previously, the facilities were on the edge of campus adjacent to Muskogee High School. Muskogee Public Schools purchased the land for the expansion of facilities there made possible through a bond package, which includes the new football facility. “This is an exciting time for us as we rebound from the near closure of 2018,” Burton said. “We’ve made tremendous strides in our finances, and we’ve begun

hiring more staff as needed — something that three years ago could not be done when we were operating on a skeleton crew. Our new employees mesh well with our veteran employees, all with a passion of helping Bacone College not only succeed but excel as we strive to refocus on our original mission to educate American Indian students. “There’s also a great sense of accomplishment and success amongst our facility and staff and they see the fruits of their dedicated and arduous labor over the last few years come to fruition.”


Education By the Numbers Student I nformation (Fall 2020): Number of Students: Total:

304

Male:

150

Female:

154

5 M ost popular majors (Fall 2020) Business Administration BS Sport Management BS Exercise Science BS Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies BA Criminal Justice Studies BS

219

Out of State:

74

E TH N I C I T Y ( Fall 2020): White:

32

Native American:

196

African American:

30

Other:

46 (26) undeclared

General Fees: Full-Time: Part-Time:

International:

7

$400/per credit hour $1,350/per term

Students come from: In-State:

TUI TION AND MANDATORY FEES In State, Out of State, Division of Indigenous Online Teaching and Learning (DIOTL), Full-Time, Part-Time:

$550/per term

Executive Team Ferlin Clark, President (Navajo) Mary Jo Pratt, CFO/VP of Finance (Amskapi Pikuni Blackfeet, WahZhaZhi Osage, and Cherokee) Jana Taylor, Vice President of Student Affairs (alumnus) (Cherokee) Wambli Sina Win, J.D., Vice President of Academic Affairs (Oglala Sioux) Rebecca Truelove, Dean of Accreditation and Research (Absentee Shawnee) Gerald Cournoyer, Vice President of Development (Oglala Lakota) Nicole Been, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects (alumnus) (Creek) Wendy Burton, Director of Public Relations and Technology (alumnus) Aaron Adson, Director of Center for American Indians (alumnus) (Pawnee/Comanche/ Navajo) William Lowe, Director of Human Resources and Special Projects (alumnus) (Creek) Ashley Goist, Athletic Trainer/Interim Athletic Director Other Key Employees: Jade Hansen, Director of Advising Center (Cherokee) Ruben Little Head, Head Men’s Basketball Coach (Northern Cheyenne) Daniel Herren, Head Softball Coach/Director of Facilities Britanie Wacoche, Head Golf Coach (Cherokee)

Tribal Colleges: Pawnee Nation In State, Out of State, Full-Time, Part-Time:

$174/per credit hour

Chartering Tribes In State, Out of State, Full-Time, Part-Time:

$250/per credit hour

5 Most popular majors ( Fall 2020) Business Administration BS Sport Management BS Exercise Science BS Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies BA Criminal Justice Studies BS

2299 Old Bacone Road (918) 683-4581

Tyrell Cummings, Head Baseball Coach (Navajo) Jacqueline Baker, Director of Development (Cherokee)

www.bacone.net GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Insurance

Appraisals

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Automotive

Insurance

Contractors

Insurance

Home Inspections

Medical Scrubs & Accessories

GUIDE Muskogee | 2021


Government G et to kno w y o u r l eaders . . .

Muskogee City Council Tracy Hoos

Evelyn Hibbs

Dr. Tracy Hoos, 45, is a local pediatrician who was appointed in July 2020 to the Muskogee City Council as Ward IV representative. He succeeded Marlon Coleman, who was elected by Muskogee voters to be the city’s first Black mayor. Councilor Hoos was graduated in 1994 from Hilldale High School. He went on to earn degrees at Northeastern State University and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency with the University of Oklahoma. Hoos said he likes to barbecue, something for which he has earned several awards for his talent at barbecue competitions, including Exchange Club of Muskogee’s Chili and Barbecue Cook-Off. He also enjoys spending time with his family and pets. He and his wife, Kristi, have two sons: Trey and Cadyn..

Evelyn Hibbs, 76, is a lifelong Muskogee resident. She is the executive director of Women in Safe Home (WISH). She has a son, Jamie Hibbs, who is married to Angela. Her hobbies include rescuing animals, music and volunteering. Gibbs said job creation Councilor is a crucially important issue facing our community. To address the situation, she would like to see the partnership with Muskogee City-County Port Authority and the City of Muskogee expand to attract industrial development. She has served as a member of the Muskogee County Election Board and as chair of the Muskogee Medical Center Authority. She started WISH Inc., nearly 34 years ago to help victims of domestic violence.

Traci Lynn McGee

clude a monthly newsletter updating the residents on current city affairs.

Stephanie Morgan No information available.

Councilor

Jaime Lynn Stout Stout attended school at both Hilldale and Oktaha school districts. She has an associate’s degree from Connors State College as well as a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Northeastern State University. She is employed Councilor with ORS Nasco as an information technology support analyst. She also is actively involved with her church, Immanuel Baptist. She has served in leadership and volunteer roles in many community organizations serving with Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, Gospel Rescue Mission, Women in Safe Home, The Barracks and United Way Day of Caring. She is a councilor in Ward II.

Ward IV City Councilor Traci McGee, 53, is from Muskogee. She Ivory Vann graduated from MuskIvory Vann was born ogee High School in in Muskogee in 1957. 1983. He attended Wheatley She is an entrepreElementary, Edison Eleneur and is owner/agent mentary, Alice Robertson of Act Now Insurance Junior High, Muskogee LLC. High School, then Her hobbies include Councilor Oklahoma State Univerreading the Bible, mensity, where he received a toring and rummage sales. degree in plumbing and She has one daughter, Brandi Nash. pipefitting. In his career, Councilor She said she believes the most important issue he worked for Garrett in Muskogee is transparency and accountability. Plumbing, Muskogee Regional Medical Center, and She said the leader should be accountable for Alex Reynolds Fort Howard/Georgia-Pacific, and remains a city making decisions that affect residents because the Ward II Councilor and state licensed plumber. citizens have entrusted leaders to be responsible. Alex Reynolds is owner Vann has four children: daughters Jacqueline and By being transparent it will allow residents to see and managing member Shabriel Vann, sons Ivory A. Vann and Michael that city government business is done in an open at Lakota Restaurant Vann. Vann is a member of Rayfield Baptist Church way without secrets, so that people can trust city Group, and he works at where he serves on the Usher Board, sings with the councilors. Max’s Garage, a property Brothers in Christ Choir, and serves on the Pastor’s As Ward IV City councilor, McGee said she owned by the group in Aid Committee. Vann is a state delegate for the would show accountability to residents by keepdowntown Muskogee. Democratic Party. He also is a member of Musking them informed and explaining the process. Reynolds was seated as a ogee’s Rotary Club where he serves on the Board She said she plans to hold community meetings city councilor in Novemof Directors. He is president of the Robison Park to keep residents informed. She plans to create a ber 2019 after his predeCouncilor Community Association. Reach Ward III Councilor working relationship with residents and will create cessor’s withdrawal from Vann at ivann@muskogeeonline.org. an email subscription for residents that will inthe 2020 election and drawing no other challengers.

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Government M u skogee C it y C o u nci l contin u ed Reynolds is an advocate for downtown Muskogee businesses and believes the city is well-positioned to capitalize on medical marijuana and the hemp industry. That could extend, he said, to recreational marijuana in the future if the politics of pot play out as he anticipates they will at the federal level. “Merle Haggard made us famous as the city that didn’t, and now all of a sudden we did — that gives us some unique marketing opportunities,” Reynolds said in 2019 while seeking a variance for a growing and processing business on West Okmulgee Avenue. He credited city officials for quickly adopting sensible zoning and business permitting ordinances. “Our property, our farmland, our real estate values for purchase and rent are some of the cheapest in the United States — we have a real opportunity here.”

Derrick Reed

Councilor

Reed won election in 2012 and took over the seat of Robert Perkins. In addition to his backing from labor supporters, Reed credited Perkins for his win. Reed said Perkins groomed him for the city council. Reed, who oversees

various programs at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, referenced the date of his victory with that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last public speech before he was slain by an assassin. In that speech is remembered the phrase, “I’ve been to the mountain top.” It was April 3, 1968, when Dr. King gave his last public speech. On April 3, 2012, Reed stood in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center giving his victory speech. Reach Ward III Councilor Reed at dreed@muskogeeonline.org.

Mayor Marlon J. Coleman The Rev. Marlon Joseph Coleman is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was unanimously elected pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, now known as Antioch, the Temple of Hope, in Muskogee, where he faithfully serves. He Mayor completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Later, he went on to study at the Andersonville Theological Seminary where he obtained the Master of Theology Degree and then the Doctorate of Theology Degree in

Pastoral Care. He also completed the Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix. Professionally, Coleman has served in several management positions with federal government with the U.S. Department of Agriculture across the country and with the Veterans Affairs as the physician recruiter at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee, where he retired from federal service after serving 22 years. Enjoying the calling to teach and serve the people of God, Coleman was selected to serve as an instructor at the historic Washington Baptist Seminary where he taught Homiletics and Systematic Theology. He is an adjunct professor with Connors State College. Coleman assists the community by serving as a member of the Board of Directors for the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce. He also is a member of the Lake Area United Way Community Investment Board, committee member for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, board member for Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, steering committee member of Action in Muskogee (AIM), National Action Network, and chairman of Religious Affairs for the Muskogee NAACP. He is the National Youth director for the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and gives leadership to several national and regional youth and civic organizations. Reach Ward IV Councilor Coleman at mcoleman@muskogeeonline.org.

G et to kno w y o u r l eaders . . .

Muskogee County Commissioners Kenny Payne

guns and spending time with family.

County Commissioner, District 3

Keith Hyslop

HOMETOWN: Muskogee. FAMILY: Wife, Stephanie Payne; two children, Tori and Tate. OCCUPATION: Regional sales, Springfield Grocer Co. EDUCATION: Northeastern State University, safety and education. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Timothy Baptist Church. HOBBIES: My children’s activities, classic cars and trucks, and golfing.

Ken Doke County Commissioner, District 1.

HOMETOWN: Muskogee. FAMILY: Wife, Jodi; three children,

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County Commissioner, District 2.

Commissioner Kenny Payne

Commissioner Ken Doke

Kaje, Kensli Faith, and Jenlee Hope. OCCUPATION: Vice president, business development director at Arvest Bank in Muskogee. EDUCATION: University of Phoenix,

Commissioner Keith Hyslop

bachelor’s degree in business administration. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: New Hope Assembly of God. HOBBIES: Hunting, fishing, shooting

HOMETOWN: Webbers Falls. OCCUPATION: County Commissioner, District 2; construction inspector, project manager. FAMILY: Wife: Tamra Hyslop; Daughters: Lauren Harris, Ashley Beard, Celeste Reaves, Ashton Burleson; Son, Richard Burleson Jr.; five grandchildren. EDUCATION: High school graduate; numerous state certifications for roads and bridges. HOBBIES: Work, spending time with family..


Government G et to kno w y o u r l eaders . . .

Public Safety City of Muskogee Emergency Management Director: Tyler Evans Phone: (918) 684-6295 Fax: (918) 684-6316 E-mail: EmergencyManagement@ muskogeeonline.org Address: 229 W. Okmulgee Ave. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1927, Muskogee, OK 74402-1927 Muskogee County Emergency Management Director: Jeff Smith — (918) 682-2551 Fax: (918) 684-1699 Address: 220 State St., #20,

Muskogee, OK 74402 Mailing address: P.O. Box 2274, Muskogee, OK 74402 E-mail: mcem@ readymuskogee.org Police Department

Tyler Evans

Jeff Smith

Johnny Teehee

Address: 520 Court St., Muskogee, OK 74402 Fax: (918) 577-6934 E-mail: tdavidson@mcc911.org

Chief: Johnny Teehee — (918) 683-8000 112 S. Third St., Muskogee, OK 74402 Fire Department Fax: (918) 680-3197 E-mail: MPD@muskogeepd.org Chief: Derrell Jones — (918) 684-6252 Fax: (918) 684-6253 911 Call Center E-Mail: fire@muskogeeonline. 911 Coordinator: Tim Davidson org — (918) 682-6911

Derrell Jones

Laurel Havens

Fire Department Stations 1. 515 Columbus St. 3. 2603 Border St. 4. 100 S. Country Club Road 5. 1706 N. York St. 6. 513 E. Peak Blvd. 7. 200 North 40th St. Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service

Tim Davidson

Executive Director: Laurel Havens, NREMT-P — (918) 6830130 Address: 200 Callahan St., Muskogee, OK 74403 Email: laurelh@mcems.us Oklahoma Highway Patrol Address: 1806 N. York St., Muskogee, OK 74403 Phone: (918) 683-3256

G et to kno w y o u r l eaders . . .

State Elected Officials Dewayne Pemberton

District 9 Oklahoma Senator (R-Muskogee)

HOMETOWN: Cabot, Arkansas. FAMILY: Wife, Claire Pemberton; three sons, Matt, Ben, and Adam Pemberton; six grandchildren. OCCUPATION: Retired educator. EDUCATION: University of Central Arkansas, bachelor’s degree with a double major in social studies and health-physical education; University of Arkansas-Little Rock; Northeastern State University, master’s degree in education administration; Oklahoma State UniversityTulsa, principal and superintendent specialist certification. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: St. Joseph Catholic Church. HOBBIES: Hunting, fishing and playing with grandchildren. CAPITOL ADDRESS: 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 427; Oklahoma City, OK 73105; (405) 521-5533; pemberton@ oksenate.gov Executive Assistant: Peggy White. (405) 521-5533

Senator Dewayne Pemberton

Representative Chris Sneed

EDUCATION: Graduate of Hulbert High School; Attended Murray State College and Northeastern State University. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Christian; Member Muskogee First Assembly. HOBBIES: Hunting, watching college football and baseball, playing golf. CAPITOL ADDRESS: 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.; Room 300C; Oklahoma City, OK 73105; (405) 557-7310. Legislative Assistant: Chris Morriss (405) 557-7310

Avery Frix District 13 Oklahoma Representative (R-Muskogee)

HOMETOWN: Muskogee. FAMILY: Parents, Kem and Paige Frix. Chris Sneed OCCUPATION: President, Oxford Productions Inc.; vice president, Frix Construction Co. District 14 Oklahoma Representative (R-Fort Gibson) EDUCATION: University of Oklahoma, bachelor’s HOMETOWN: Fort Gibson. degree in business administration, accounting. FAMILY: Wife, Joie Sneed; three children: Summer RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: First Baptist Church of Brock, Cody Sloan and Keaton Sloan; one grandchild. Muskogee. OCCUPATION: Business owner, Chris Sneed Insurance. HOBBIES: Watching Hilldale Hornets play football.

Representative Avery Frix

Representative Randy Randleman

CAPITOL ADDRESS: 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.; Room 328B; Oklahoma City, OK 73105; (405) 557-7302 Legislative Assistant: Vicki Adams (405) 557-7302

Randy Randleman District 15 Oklahoma Representative (R-Eufaula)

HOMETOWN: Eufaula. FAMILY: Wife, Jennifer; Children: Brandon, Chad, Jordan, Zachary, Rhea; Grandchildren: Julianne, Tinley, Case. OCCUPATION: Licensed psychologist. EDUCATION: Associate’s degree from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; Bachelor’s degree from University of Tulsa; Master’s degree from Northeastern State University; Ph.D from Oklahoma State University. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Community Culture Church, Eufaula. HOBBIES: Love to draw and travel; like to use my bulldozer, it’s relaxing; hunting, fishing. CAPITOL ADDRESS: 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.; Room 302; Oklahoma City, OK 73105; (405) 557-7375 Legislative Assistant: Kaley Mills (405) 557-7375

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Local REALTORS® Stand Ready To Help A year ago we watched with uncertainty to see what the COVID-19 virus would mean for our lives and the way we lived. The year had started strong and home sales were humming and then the virus came here. A year has passed and what had started as a promising year for real estate turned out better than anyone could have hoped for. After an abrupt stop and a few cautious weeks, the buyer’s ventured out and the real estate market here got progressively better and better. Interest rates that were already historically low fell even further with a few lucky buyers locking in rates below 2.5%. A few weeks ago, mortgage rates turned around and have risen about 1/2%. The number of homes available to purchase seems to fall every week and each new listing seems to draw multiple offers and buyers going to great lengths to try to get an edge on their competition. If you have ever thought you might want to sell your home, today is the day you have been waiting for. It is the strongest seller’s market I have seen in the 23 years I’ve been in the business.

Charli Mosteller

Angie Tyner

THE GIVENS GROUP

OMAR D. GIVENS The Givens Group

918-577-2976

ogivens@givensgrp.com

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In Good Or Challenging Times! If you haven’t bought a home or are considering another one, you might be thinking this is not the best time to buy. It’s true that home prices have increased and the interest rates have risen a little. Here are some things to keep in mind. realtor.com expects home prices to continue to rise only slowing a bit in the second-half of 2021. And forecast that I have seen for interest rates over the next 90 days indicate we will likely see rates of 3.50% or higher. So even though it seems expensive now, the outlook is even higher. If you are thinking about buying a home, here is my best advice: work with a local lender and get pre-approved now so you are able to make an offer as soon as you see the home that is right for you. I also recommend you get in contact with a local Realtor who can help you look for the home that is right for you. They will be a great partner to help you see and make an offer when your dream home hits the market. Shawn Raper, ERA/C.S. Raper, Broker

Monica Medley

Stan Miller

Cheryl Andrews

Glory Thompson

Patty Gorman

John Fabian

Kim David

Skylar Keeton

Stacey Dobbs

Gary Jobe

Jacob Bowlin

Amanda Pace

Shawn Raper

Darrell Ward

Cindy Teel

Linda Cole

Gary Grandstaff

Sheila Anderson

Mac Keeling

Jennifer Murray

Bridgette Bearden

Valerie Moore

ERA CS Raper & Son Real Estate ERAmuskogee.com

Sarah Bollig

Madrienna Florence Rorex Smith

Missie Callahan

918-683-1710

Leslie Ivens

CENTURY21 CLINKENBEARD AGENCY MUSKOGEE

918·682-5200 muskogeeproperties.com Sherri Jones

Lake Moore IV

LAKE MOORE REAL ESTATE

lakemoore@sbcglobal.net

918-682-3200

Angela Jackson

FITE-REYNOLDS REAL ESTATE

adjackson1447@yahoo.com

Sam Taylor

Gina Jones

Sandy Laster

Gina Huskey

Lindsey Stretch

Sarah Cox

Michelle Shirley

Liz Capps

CHINOWTH & COHEN

918-537-2263

918-869-7433

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Services Lake A rea United Way S ervice O rgani z ations Boys & Girls Club of Tahlequah Provides youth development to Cherokee County youth by working to inspire, educate, and empower kindergarten-eighth graders to realize their full potential as productive and responsible citizens in a safe and fun environment. www.tahlequahbgca.org (918) 456-6888.

Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma Girl scouting equips young girls in making better life choices by developing leadership, confidence, and girls of courage through a variety of scouting programs. www.gseok.org (918) 6837738.

Muskogee County Council of Youth Services — MCCOYS Provides guidance and character building programs in two United Way funded areas; 1) supervised community experiences for youth and young adults working within the judicial system, and 2) in-school “Lifeskills” training for 6-8th graders at Braggs, Okay and Muskogee Public Schools. www.mccys. org (918) 682-2841.

United Methodist Children’s Home Provides a spectrum of transitional living assistance into early adulthood for at-risk high school and college-aged youth through an independent living program to better equip them in making their way into the adult world. (918) 456-6166.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library Provides age appropriate books to children ages 0-5 years of age each month to boost children during the early formative years and put them on a path towards a successful education. www.lakeareaunitedway.org (918) 6821364.

American Red Cross A volunteer led humanitarian organization. United Way support touches lives daily with relief to victims of disasters as well as emergency and prevention/preparedness training. www. oklahomaredcross.org (918) 682-1366.

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Muskogee County District Attorney employees carry a banner during a Walk in Her Shoes walk from Muskogee County Courthouse to Muskogee Civic Center. The walk and a noon ceremony raised awareness about domestic violence.

County Helping people help themselves by providing a supportive network of services and providers such as emergency food, shelter, and utility assistance to aid individuals and families in becoming self-sufficient. (918) 456-4673.

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Providing high-quality civil legal


Services services to lower income and elderly residents. www.legalaidok.org (918) 6835681.

CASA for Children in Muskogee — Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA recruits, screens, trains, and supports community volunteers to advocate in the best interests of children involved in juvenile cases of neglect and abuse in Muskogee, Wagoner and Sequoyah district courts. www.casaok. org (918) 686-8199.

CASA of Cherokee Country Advocating as a voice for children who enter the court system as a result of abuse and/or neglect by providing trained volunteers to speak independently for the best interests of the children. www.oklahomacasa.org (918) 456-8788.

Provides children and adults with motor deficit or developmental delays physical therapy to enhance mobility and interaction with friends and family. www.kbtoddcpcenter.org (918) 683-4621.

Kids’ Space – Muskogee County Child Advocacy Center Provides a child-friendly environment for the intervention, assessment, and investigation needed to assist with prosecution, treatment and prevention of physically and sexually abused children. Provides educational and child protective classes. www.kidsspacemuskogee.org (918) 682-4204.

Chevy, a Girl Scout from Checotah, samples a Lemon-Up cookie during a 2020 scout gathering at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Lemon-Ups are among several Girl Scout cookie varieties currently on sale.

Volunteers of America – RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program)

Creates opportunities for senior citizens to remain actively engaged in their communities through volunteer services in a variety of organizations Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy ranging from hospitals to youth centers & Neuro-muscular Center by utilizing their time and talents in

service to others. www.voaok.org (918) 683-1578.

Women In Safe Home — WISH Provides shelter, counseling, and support services to victims of domestic vio-

lence, rape, and adult survivors of child sexual assault or harassment in order to achieve safety, survival, recovery, empowerment and rehabilitation to women and children coping with domestic violence. (918) 682-7879.

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Health & Wellness W here to find F itness activities in M uskogee

T

here is no shortage of beautiful parks and complexes where people can find physical activity options in Muskogee. From gorgeous running and cycling trails to swimming pools, Muskogee has plenty to offer for those who want a solid workout or some places to play sports. The city is home to numerous public parks, golf courses, football fields and a water park. That barely scratches the surface of what Muskogee has to offer for everyone, from athletes to casual joggers to those who just want to play a game of basketball or skate with their friends. People who want to commit to an activity or sport can join an intramural softball team, a weightlifting program or a golf club. If you want to do something at your leisure, there are plenty of natural trails, tennis courts and places to practice soccer or baseball. Trails There’s several good trails in town for runners or cyclists to choose from. The most notable trail in the city is Centennial Trail, which is located in the southwest portion of Muskogee and has two sections. The first is the Love-Hatbox Sports Complex loop, a 3.1-mile paved trail that weaves through the wilderness surrounding Love-Hatbox Sports Complex. This trail is perfect if you’re training for or running a 5K. The second section, Centennial Trail South, goes from Love-Hatbox Sports Complex to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in the downtown area. Honor Heights Park is home to three trails. The first is Stem Beach Trail, a 1.2-mile trail that loops around the park’s largest lake and includes a waterfront gazebo and fishing docks. The second is the Henry Bresser Nature Trail, a quarter-mile nature trail that goes through the woods and includes sitting areas and picnic tables. The third is the Audubon Trail, which is a half-mile long and popular among birdwatchers. Running and cycling trails are also available at Spaulding Park, Civitan Park and Robison Park. Baseball and Softball The main place in Musk-

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Spinning class participants, from left, Warren Blackburn, Beth Hsieh and William Torres pedal at various levels during the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center class.

ogee for fun on the diamond is Love-Hatbox Sports Complex, which is home to 10 baseball fields, eight softball fields and several batting cages. There are a multitude of options available at Love-Hatbox for those who want to join a baseball, softball or adult softball league. The fields are often kept open at other times for those who just want to play some baseball or softball with their friends without joining a team. Grandview Park is a 29-acre complex that’s home to two softball fields and a play area that borders a creek. For those who just want a place to practice, Robison Park has a baseball practice area. Golf There are two places to go for a traditional round of golf. If you’re looking for a country club experi-

Jefr’e Nelson, center blocks an attempted shot by Demontae Nails while Darius Jackson watches during a pick-up basketball game at Spaulding Park.


Health & Wellness ence, look no further than the Muskogee Golf Club. If you don’t want to make that commitment and are looking for a daily fees course, Cobblestone Golf Course is the place to be. Perhaps, instead of traditional golf, you’re more interested in playing some disc golf. If that’s the case, Civitan Park has an 18-hole course that will be right up your alley. Soccer and Football As is the case with baseball and softball, Love-Hatbox Sports Complex is the best place to play some soccer. The massive complex has 13 soccer fields — as well as two American football fields — available for use. If you want to work on your soccer technique, play a game with some friends or join the Muskogee Soccer Club, Love-Hatbox is a good place to kick it. Rooney Park and Robison Park also are home to soccer fields. Swimming

John Martin of Muskogee is poised to return a serve. The retiree enjoyed being outside. “It’s halfway sunny and I haven’t gotten to play in a few days,” Martin said with a laugh.

to celebrate a special occasion. If you’re looking for more of an outdoor swimming experience, River Country Water Park is located on the edge of Love-Hatbox Sports Complex. The park doesn’t reopen until May 25, but when that time comes, you can experience its water slides, beaches and lazy river. Lifeguard training also is offered at the park. Spaulding Park is another place to check out if you’re looking for an outdoor public pool. Basketball Just looking to shoot some hoops? While there aren’t any indoor basketball courts available to the public in Muskogee, outdoor courts can be found at many local parks. Tennis You’d be hard-pressed to find a more scenic place to play tennis in Muskogee than Honor Heights Park, which is home to three tennis courts. If you’re looking for somewhere to play tennis that’s closer to downtown, however, Spaulding Park is the place to go.

Looking for a place to swim indoors and work on your technique and sign up for swimming classes or take a lifeguard certification course? Look Skateboarding no further than the Swim and Fitness Center located downtown. You can If you’ve been gifted with the cooralso book private and open pool parties dination and skill to ride a skateboard and you’re looking for a place to ride with friends or do some tricks, there are two options for you in Muskogee. An outdoor skate park can be found at Love-Hatbox Sports Complex, while a smaller park can be found right on the edge of Robison Park. Weight and Fitness Training Skyler White of Muskogee goes nearly horizontal as he wheels his skateboard around Midland Valley Skatepark.

Want to pump some iron or join a fitness program? A visit to or a membership with the Swim and Fitness Center might just be for you. There’s a gym in the complex where you can run on a treadmill or strengthen yourself through weightlifting. The Center offers customized programs, personal fitness evaluations and one-on-one personal training. More into group fitness? The Swim and Fitness Center has plenty of options on the table for you, including water aerobics, Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Zumba Step, yoga, tai chi, JointFlex, Boxing Cardio Circuit, Combo Step Aerobics, strength and cardio, pilates, Hip Hop Fitness, and Tabata. GUIDE Muskogee | 2021

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Health & Wellness H ealth C are Facilities Saint Francis Muskogee Address: 300 Rockefeller Drive. Phone: (918) 682-5501. Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee is made up of more than 140 providers and 320 beds. The community hospital serves a seven-county area and is one of Muskogee’s top employers. In April 2017, Eastar Health System and affiliated clinics became part of Saint Francis Health System. Along with Warren Clinic physician offices, Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee provide area residents with quality care and expanding services. As part of Saint Francis Health System, patients in Muskogee and the surrounding communities have access to continuum of care and services offered by eastern Oklahoma’s largest health care network.

Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Address: 1011 Honor Heights Drive. Phone: (918) 577-3000. The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System consists of a Joint Commission accredited, complexity Level 2 medical center in Muskogee that serves veterans in 25 counties of eastern Oklahoma. The 89-bed facility offers primary and secondary levels of inpatient medical and surgical care, as well as an inpatient rehabilitation and inpatient behavioral health unit. As part of the Rocky Mountain Network (VISN 19), EOVAHCS has ready access to seven sister facilities for referral, although it uses the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center for the majority of its tertiary services. EOVAHCS also operates three community-based outpatient clinics that provide primary and

Cherokee Nation Three Rivers Clinic performs more than 2 million outpatient visits.

Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center offers primary and secondary levels of inpatient medical and surgical care, as well as an inpatient rehabilitation and inpatient behavioral health unit.

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Health & Wellness

Saint Francis Hospital is a community hospital that serves a seven-county area. consultative care in medicine, surgery and mental health in Tulsa, Hartshorne and Vinita. In addition, they operate a Behavioral Medicine Clinic in Muskogee that provides outpatient therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, and a Behavioral Medicine Clinic in Tulsa that provides outpatient mental health therapy and substance abuse

treatment. Cherokee Nation Three Rivers Clinic Address: 1001 S. 41st St. E. Phone: (918) 781-6500. Cherokee Nation Health Services, a division of Cherokee Nation, is a medical facility that provides nursing,

nutritional, emergency medical, and behavioral and community health services. The center also offers treatment solutions for cancer and diabetes. Cherokee Nation Health Services performs more than 2 million outpatient visits. It works with communities, families and individuals. The center additionally specializes in the areas of dentistry, radiology, optome-

try and tobacco cessation. Cherokee Nation Health Services provides the Healthy Nation Program. It also maintains a residential adolescent treatment center and offers disease prevention services. The center operates a WINGS Activity Club. Cherokee Nation Health Services also provides a cancer prevention program.

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Quality of Life

Projects prompt new

opportunities New park facilities expand possibilities By Mike Kays

Muskogee Phoenix

T

he pandemic brought both challenges and unexpected surprises in terms of how Muskogee Parks and its collection of facilities have operated. Take for example the new Hatbox Event Center, when a couple of Tulsa-based youth wrestling events requested and obtained use of it. “You never know what’s out there that meets this kind of space,” said parks director Mark Wilkerson. “I would have never dreamt at all youth wrestling would be one of those.” To be fair, the event organizers had limited options once schools were deemed off limits due to COVID-19 protocols. But it does tell of what’s possible. “We’ll have to find our niche. I don’t think we know what it is yet,” Wilkerson said. “I suspect people will gravitate to us based on

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Quality of Life

Sisters Carly Dismukes, left and Shayla Dismukes blow dry their Charolais heifers after showing them at the Muskogee Regional Junior Livestock Show. Shayla showed a reserve breed champion Charolais and Carly showed a reserve breed champion commercial heifer. (File photo)

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Quality of Life

Banners saluting TV classics and banners featuring animals were among dozens auctioned off following the previous year’s Azalea Festival. (File photo)

Muskogee High School student Adam Stoutermire, right, gives a veterans medal to William Qualls. The Veterans Day event was held at the new Depot Green. (File photo)

availability and based on price. Sometimes people can’t afford to go to Tulsa and will look to other areas with lower pricing. But you never know what type events that will come along that meet that kind of space.” Livestock shows have certainly targeted it, with the recent Muskogee County Livestock Show. The Real Okie Beer Fest is set for June

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4, and the Oklahoma Balloon Festival is Aug. 28-29. Wilkerson can see opportunities for showcases in the areas of consumer products, home and garden, boat and travel and farm and agriculture. Car shows and swap meets can also be part of the mix. Another project that should begin taking

off as the pandemic restrictions ease up is the Depot Green, located in the depot district on the south end of downtown. “We’ve been hesitant to plan anything there until we’re in a better situation with Covid, but we’re excited about the possibilities there,” he said. Music events, food truck nights and fit-


Quality of Life

The light displays are designed to reflect Honor Heights Park’s natural beauty. (File photo)

ness-type facilities, along with small cultural type festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco De Mayo come to mind. Union Pacific Railroad has given the city a grant for a train-related mural there, too, Wilkerson said. The green space at the Depot serves as the trail head of Centennial Trail, which lends

itself to walk events, bike rides and running events. The Azalea Festival Parade again fell victim to the pandemic, but the Chili Cookoff will endure. It’s being moved to June at Hatbox. Okie Raceway Park, a street racing strip adjacent to the Event Center, will have three

events this year. With one event held last summer, the three-race schedule includes events on May 22, June 19 and Sept. 25 with big tires, small tires, true street and daily driver classes. Youth sports are returning to Hatbox in full. Last year, baseball was the only one to play during the pandemic.

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Quality of Life M u skogee C it y Parks Beckman Park North 16th Street and West Broadway

Located in the heart of Founders Place Historic District, this 3.7acre neighborhood park has a new playground, splash pad and picnic shelter.

Bill Pool Park Gawf and Foltz lanes

This 2.5-acre park in Phoenix Village has picnic tables, a playground, and a basketball court.

Civitan Park 3301 Gibson St.

Daniel Boone’s son, Nathan, originally surveyed this 43-acre hillside park across the street from the Oklahoma School for the Blind. The eastern boundary of the park is the boundary of the Cherokee and Creek Nations. Amenities include a concrete trail that is .8 mile in length and is the meeting place for many regular park patrons. An 18-hole disc golf course is open to the public at no charge. There are picnic areas, playground, open play areas, and a historic shelter that is available by reservation.

Douglas-Maxey Park South Sixth Street and West Southside Boulevard

This 2-acre park was originally two separate parks. Now considered a single park, it has picnic areas, playground, open spaces, and a basketball court.

Octavia Hayes feeds water to Piggy, left, and Honey during a Friday afternoon visit to Muskogee Bark Park. (File photo)

Honor Heights Park Honor Heights Drive

Originally purchased by the City of Muskogee in 1909, Honor Heights Park has proven to be the “the crown Elliott Park jewel in Muskogee’s park system.” The idyllic setting of this 132-acre Altamont Street and Tower Hill park makes it attractive to visitors Boulevard One of Muskogee’s older historic year-round. There are many picnic parks, Elliott Park is situated on Tower areas, two picnic shelters, a pavilHill, the site of Muskogee’s first water ion, gazebos, and public restrooms. tower. This beautiful treed and terYou also will find activities such as raced 29-acre setting has picnic areas, fishing in five lakes and ponds from playgrounds, lighted basketball courts, a the shore of the fully accessible shelter that is available for reservation. fishing docks, playground, open play areas, three tennis courts, and a sand During summer days the sprayground, volleyball court. A splash pad located an interactive water playground, is in operation. next to the playground area is in operation May-September. HonGulick Park or Heights is home to three trails: Henry Bresser Nature Trail, the South Seventh and Elgin streets Audubon Trail, which is a favorite This 1-acre neighborhood park has of local birders, and the half-mile shaded picnic areas, playground, and Stem Beach Trail which is a habit open play areas.

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Naturalist Tom Roberts walks up steps leading to Honor Heights Park’s Audubon Trail, which he called the park’s “hidden gem.” (File photo)


Quality of Life of local runners and walkers. Also home to the Conard Rose Garden, the C. Clay Harrell Arboretum, Art Johnson Memorial Dogwood Collection, Elbert L. Little Jr. Native Tree Collection, azalea gardens, floral gardens, white garden, and at the top of Agency Hill, you will find the Rainbow Division Memorial Amphitheater. Honor Heights Park also is home to the city’s largest festivals: The Azalea Festival and The Garden of Lights.

Love-Hatbox Sports Complex/Hatbox Field 34th and Arline streets

This 60-acre site is formerly a historic airport that had seen the likes of such people as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Newly expanded and developed over the last several years, this complex is home to many leagues, tournaments, and individual users.

King Park

Gibson Street and East Side Boulevard

two fishing ponds.

This fenced park has a shaded picnic Robison Park area, playground and an open play area. Augusta and Gulick streets This park offers a playground and Langston Park sprayground with picnic areas, basketball courts, baseball/softball practice Euclid and Sandow streets area, and soccer goals. Walking trails This 2-acre park north of Shawnee and outdoor fitness equipment are Bypass has shaded picnic areas, a playground, an open area, and a basketball available, as well. court.

Optimist Park South F and Independence streets

Rotary Park South 24th and Elgin streets

There is a shaded playground and picnic area in this 1.5-acre park. There is also a ballfield and an open play area.

Originally donated by the Rotary Club, this 3.5-acre park is home to a newly renovated playground and splash pad, picnic areas, open play area, pavilion, and two basketball courts.

Palmer Park Honor Heights Drive and Denison Street

Spaulding Park East Okmulgee and East Side Boulevard

This setting is home to 19 acres of This 2-acre park is named after early many amenities and some of the first Park Superintendent George Palmer. publicly planted trees in the city. There You will find shaded and sunny picnic are picnic areas, a playground, open areas, a playground, open play area, and

play areas, fully accessible swimming facility, tennis courts, the asphalt multipurpose Spaulding Trail, a picnic shelter (reservations available), a gazebo surrounded by the water of the park’s lake, two basketball courts, a fishing dock, and public restrooms. Located directly next to the Parks and Recreation Administration offices.

Parks and Recreation Department Facilities River Country Water Park, 3600 Arline St. Honor Heights Park Papilion. Georgia-Pacific Butterfly House open Mother’s Day through Sept. 30. Love-Hatbox Sports Complex, 3601 Arline St. Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center, 566 N. Sixth St. (918) 6846304. Source: City of Muskogee

Polly and Ken Underwood enjoy Symphony in the Park, an event held at Honor Heights Park. (File photo)

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