Residents:Top priorities are marketing, education

Nathan Thompson |

Approximately 40 Pawhuska residents gathered Friday evening for a Creative Community Town Hall meeting at Tri County Tech’s Business Development Center, 1225 Virginia Short Street.

During the meeting, participants discussed seven community needs previously identified during a Smart Growth America session and prioritized the needs from a short-term and long-term goal perspective.

The community needs identified were improving public infrastructure; communitywide beautification, including “placemaking” for the downtown area; affordable housing for residents and hotel space for visitors; creating a marketing plan for Pawhuska and the Osage Nation; supporting creativity and quality in education; supporting a prepared workforce and additional job creation.

The Pawhuska town hall was moderated by Creative Oklahoma’s Ed Long and Dr. Dennis Williams with Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma City, and was organized by Oklahoma Creative Communities Pawhuska.

Bruce Carter said the new organization has met three times and has identified some challenges in Pawhuska that the group feels should be addressed.

“These are things we feel that was can move forward with to make Pawhuska a better community,” Carter said. “The purpose of this evening is for us to listen to you (the community) and see the things you feel that will help us move forward.”

Long said Pawhuska’s active community involvement in trying to identify issues and address them creatively sets the residents apart from other cities and towns he has worked with.

“I’m excited to see that people are not making excuses, folks are coming together to ask what can we do, how can we make it work, how can we come together for creative solutions to move forward,” Long said. “I think that Pawhuska does that as well, or better than anyone that I’ve seen. We are honored to be here.”

The purpose of Friday’s forum was to take the list of seven identified needs, and narrow those needs down to two or three projects that can be solved quickly.

“This is about creating a future that’s going to make Pawhuska the great place that it is, but the great future that it will be,” Williams said.

During the discussion, town hall participants said the largest need in the community on a short-term basis is to come up with a good marketing plan and to take steps to increase creativity and quality in education. On a long-term basis, participants decided public infrastructure, creating better housing, and taking care of unkempt and abandoned structures in downtown and throughout the city must be addressed.

Other ideas that were discussed include reopening the Pawhuska Golf and Country Club as a public facility, additional recreation opportunities at Bluestem Lake, paving the road to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and bringing in more retail to take care of basic needs.

Pawhuska is one of nine participants in the Oklahoma Creative Communities initiative launched by Creative Oklahoma in 2016 to grow creativity and innovation in communities throughout the state. The other eight communities are Altus, Durant, Enid, Guthrie, Locust Grove, Okmulgee, Ponca City and Tahlequah.