The Edmond National Guard Armory was invaded Saturday by a horde of daylaborers led by Mayor Saundra Naifeh and Edmond’s Urban Forester Carrie Tomlinson. It was all part of a national effort called “Make a Difference Day,” and workers volunteered their time to landscape, paint and plant trees for the armory.

“It’s a great oppritunity because a lot of times the armories don’t get maintained above the bare minimum, so a beautifcation project is amazing because the armory gets integrated with the rest of the city,” said Capt. James Caldwell, the armory’s Edmond liason.

The armory is at 600 S. Bryant along a drive that is under development for beautification by the city. The units based at the armory are spending more time away from home dealing with natural disasters and the War on Terrorism, so the City of Edmond decided it would be a good gesture to their citizen soldiers.

“Planting a tree is always a good thing, and having that impact on the armory is beneficial in lots of ways. Giving the soldiers a nice place to come home to is a big part of that,” Tomlinson said. “We are showing that the community supports them, and what better way than to plant a tree that will be there for a hundred years.”

There were 75 volunteers who helped paint the curbs, railings, plant trees, landscape as well as other tasks meant to keep up the appearance of the armory. The work isn’t done, and other volunteers will come out later to work on other projects such as providing additional plumbing to water the trees.

“It will make the soldiers proud to come to the armory, (and) hopefully the community will not just see us as place for soldiers to gather, it’s a place for community to have Civil Air Patrol, Blue Star Mothers, Boy Scouts all those people can come here when they need a large space,” Caldwell said.

Thirty trees of numerous varieties were planted around the armory to help with shading and appearance. There is a drainage ditch that runs along the front of the armory, and the specific types of trees were chosen to address their flooding problems and to prevent a large number of the trees from being wiped out by disease or insect infestation.

The city didn’t do the project with volunteers to save money, but because getting that many people together was a time-consuming endeavor. It was hoped that involving the community, rather than contractors, would encourage more camradery between the community and the armory, as well as teach citizens more about proper tree care.

“The outcome is a ripple effect, the more I can teach people about the value of tree planting, the more they will take home and teach other people,” Tomlinson said. “I can tell you every single tree I’ve ever planted, and when I go back to towns I’ve worked in and projects I helped in, I drive by and check out the trees. These people will have the same attatchment to this area.”

A benefit for the armory isn’t only cosmetic. The more substantial connection the armory has with the community, the better chance the armory has of staying open, as was seen recently when they were being considered for closure.

“The Base Realignment And Closure Committee recomended that this armory be closed but the Adjutant General of Oklahoma overruled that,” Caldwell said. “There is a definate focus on this armory from the National Guard side, and as Edmond tries to develop this corridor, we want to make sure that the armory keeps up with that.”

The City of Edmond is interested in maintaining a healthy relationship with its armory as well. Naifeh has asked the National Guard to help out with projects and says the Guard has always been accommodating.

“We’re not losing our Armory,” Naifeh stated, explaining why it is important for the community. “The National Guard units are called for all safety and emergency situations, they like to help when we ask them, they like to be active in the community. They ship out and handle situations all over the state because that’s what they do, they protect the state.”

“You don’t just join the Guard and leave the community, it’s not like the Army, you stay here and put down your roots as a Guardsman,” Caldwell said.

The armory also has plans to continue incorporating the changing look into its own layout.

“When the funding becomes available, we will be building a quarter-mile track in the back,” Caldwell said. “We want to integrate that with the running trails from the park, so someone who is running the trails can do a couple loops on the track.”

This was the second “Make a Difference Day” that Edmond has participated in. Last year the city sponsored a literacy drive. For more information, visit www.edmondok.com.

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