Preserving the City’s Beauty - 405 Magazine

Preserving the City’s Beauty

OKC Beautiful’s legacy of service.

OKC Beautiful volunteers collected more than 125,000 pounds of litter in 2022. Photos courtesy of Oklahoma City Beautiful Inc.

OKC Beautiful’s legacy of service.

Oklahoma City was still in its infancy when community leaders decided the state’s capital already needed more visual appeal and updated amenities.

A nationwide trend to beautify cities, called the City Beautiful Movement, swept the early 1900s. Supporters of the movement believed that wide streets, well-planned landscapes and beautiful buildings would help build or restore pride in urban areas.

In 1903, several local ladies’ clubs organized a Civic Improvement League, one of the earliest City Beautiful organizations in Oklahoma City, to guide beautification efforts that often included hiring gardeners, gathering groups to plant flowers and improving sanitary conditions.

The city’s bigger focus was on park development, city planning and zoning, landscape design, new infrastructure for paved streets, classically inspired buildings, sweeping boulevards, trash removal, sewer systems and street lighting. 

Professional planners were hired for those early large projects, but not always with successful outcomes. The local City Beautiful campaign, which ended in 1944, was a strong start to what has become a century-long endeavor to make Oklahoma City more attractive and its residents more involved, knowledgeable and supportive.

One of the biggest steps in that direction came March 26, 1971, when Oklahoma City Beautiful was incorporated as the only nonprofit organization dedicated to the beautification of the city.

About 1,400 students annually participate in the OKC Harvest program. OKC Beautiful believes a child who has experienced nature can learn to care about it. Photos courtesy of Oklahoma City Beautiful Inc.

Throughout Oklahoma City, the efforts of the organization, its partners and thousands of volunteers to enhance public spaces, parks and medians can be seen and appreciated, thanks to their tireless energy and dedication.

The nonprofit has grown in its 50 years, as have its programs. The organization now offers 10, including Tree OKC with plantings, giveaways and education; LitterBlitz, an annual event with volunteer groups picking up litter; OKC Harvest school gardens; Mother Earth, which teaches students about litter reduction, recycling and water conservation; and Adopt-A-Park, which encourages groups to maintain a park, median or green belt.

Oklahoma City Beautiful’s annual achievements include maintenance of 39 sponsored medians and rights-of-way through the LandScapes program; teaching 15,000 students through Mother Earth elementary education; engaging 5,000-plus volunteers each year in its programs; planting 800 trees in 2022, with the number expected to exceed 1,200 this year; more than 125,000 pounds of litter collected last year by volunteers; 1,400 students receiving continuous education in the OKC Harvest school garden program; and 2,000-plus residents who receive free and low-cost environmental education each year.

It’s what Oklahoma City Beautiful Inc. envisioned more than 50 years ago when the nonprofit formally began with its mission to lead beautification and environmental efforts through collaboration, education and advocacy. Going forward, Oklahoma City’s urban landscape appears, quite literally, to be in good hands.