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‘Greenway’ concept discussed for Cherokee Nation jurisdiction
By WILL CHAVEZ
Thurs, Oct 07, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials met with representatives from the National Park Service, Boy Scouts of America, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers and other organizations Sept. 29 to discuss possibly establishing a “greenway” corridor between U.S. Highway 412 and Interstate 40.
Greenways provide people recreational areas, community meeting places, educational experiences and natural landscapes as well as historic preservation and beautification opportunities.
The meeting was held at Camp Egan, east of Tahlequah, and included the Trail of Tears Association, Land Legacy, Nature Conservancy, Save The Illinois River, Saline Preservation Association, Dwight Mission and the Cherokee community organizations Blue Sky Water and Marble City.
“We envisioned this greenway running all the way from Sallisaw Park near I-40 all the way up to Salina,” said Blue Sky Water President Myra Robertson. “It’s parallel to the (Cherokee Hills) Scenic Byway, and people can get off of the byway and visit. It’s not all written in stone yet. That’s what we are here to do is plan and decide what the greenway will be.”
Attendees discussed what should be in the greenway, why it is needed and why it would be important for communities within the CN, Robertson said.
She said Blue Sky Water received a NPS planning grant to get the greenway project off the ground. However, Robertson said for it to succeed people who are interested along the greenway corridor will need to help manage it with the NPS.
Prior to the Sept. 29 meeting, forums were held in various communities to discuss sites of interest and natural resources communities would have to offer for the greenway.
“We were trying to piece together a trail. Cherokee Nation mapping has helped with our maps. We’ve had a donation of land already along Sallisaw Creek. Everything has been going and growing,” Robertson said.
NPS Community Planner Joy Lujan attended the Sept. 29 meeting. She said the NPS River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program helps organizations and communities across the country with planning for outdoor recreation and natural resource preservation.
“Last year, we got a request for assistance from Blue Sky Water to help them look at a greenway concept, and it’s grown to be a much bigger idea than we started with,” Lujan said.
She said “intersecting” interests of the participants would benefit the region. The tribe’s interest, she said, is creating recreational areas where Cherokee people can be active.
Lujan said greenways not only preserve land for people’s use, they also preserve land for animals to remain in their natural habitats.
“Our job is to look at existing resources and figure out how to connect them, and that’s what we hope the community will help us do,” she said. “Part of the reason we’re here today is to figure out how we’re going to work together to make it happen.”
Suzanne Sullivan, CEO of the Vian Community Charitable Trust, said Vian could be an important part of the greenway because it is a “wonderful location and a “doorway” to Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, Tenkiller State Park, the Lower Illinois River, Sallisaw Creek and Vian Creek.
“It’s also the gateway to the Cherokee Nation off of I-40. It’s the best exit to take you straight to Tahlequah,” she said. “I think thinking regionally we need to connect those dots and realize that we are a suburb of Tahlequah and the gateway to the Nation.”
Sullivan said there is also much Cherokee history associated with the Vian area and western Sequoyah County that could be incorporated into the greenway.
Robertson said the greenway should complement the 88-mile Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway, which was designated in 2008 in Sequoyah, Cherokee, Adair and Delaware counties. The designation made available federal funding and grants to increase tourism for those counties.
“Personally, I feel like it (greenway) gives people an opportunity to build economic development in some of the rural areas and rural communities without changing the way that we live or without changing our natural resources,” Robertson said.