Volunteers led by Joplin Arts District work on downtown park

May 13—Volunteers popped up like May flowers this week as they worked to refresh Spiva Park.

Companies such as Keller Williams Real Estate and Starbucks brought employees out to help clear planting beds of poor growth or dead plants, add fresh soil, replant flowers and shrubs, and top it all off with a fresh covering of mulch.

Local people donated iris rhizomes so that new starts of the city's official flower could take their roots in Joplin's only downtown park. They also gave cannas, lilies, tiger lilies and other plants amounting to four boxes of starts. One resident, Beverly Gilstrap, gave five boxes of rhizomes, bulbs and plant starts to help with the project.

Even a woman who lives in Iowa shipped two boxes of starts and bulbs of heritage plants from her historic property. Included were numerous types of iris, daffodils and hyacinths, and in all colors from white to periwinkle.

She did it "because she loves the idea of what we're doing here," said Linda Teeter, founder of the Joplin Arts District. She is leading the effort to restore the park in cooperation with the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department.

There are new shrubs such as boxwoods and flowering plants like knockout roses to dress up the edges of the park. A hosta bed has been installed in a shady corner.

"We've moved and transplanted and tried to keep the original flowers as much as possible," Teeter said.

A number of purple irises have been been planted together because it was the favorite of the park's namesake, arts supporter George A. Spiva. He was a businessman and philanthropist who started Spiva Center for the Arts with the donation of a house to establish the city's first arts center. He also provided financial gifts to Missouri Southern State University. He had the park constructed in 1966 and donated it to the city of Joplin.

Spiva's grandson, Scott Cragin, was among the battalion of volunteers who helped with the work this week.

"Everything is getting cleaned up and spruced up, and now the mineral bed is a mineral bed again," Teeter said.

The mineral bed is located inside the main entrance of the park. It is a display of the various types of ore and minerals that were uncovered in the Tri-State Mining District that enriched miners and capitalists who flocked here late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century to make their fortunes.

Paula Callihan, a board member of the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, said that when the park was built, the museum donated some minerals such as lead and zinc, quartz and crystals, for the display that is contained in a decorative iron fence.

"They had plantings in with them, but the plantings became overgrown and encompassed the minerals and dirt piled up around them," Callihan said. "So now with this renovation, we are trying to restore it, clean the stones and get some lighting on them."

Local real estate agents with Keller Williams gathered for "Red Day," a day given to the agents and employees worldwide to allow them to do volunteer work, said agent Jennifer Reaves.

"It's an effort to give back to the community that has given so much to us," she said. The local group's effort was dedicated in honor of the corporate cultural leader of the company, Mo Anderson.

This is the 14th year for the volunteer day. Last year, the local agents worked in other city parks. In the past, they also have worked at Lafayette House, the Boys & Girls Club and others.

Spiva Park

Tim Teeter transplants irises Tuesday in Spiva Park. Teeter is one of a small army of volunteers working to improve the downtown park through the efforts of the Joplin Arts District. GLOBE — LAURIE SISK

They also had crews working on a LifeChoices building project and at a food pantry in Carthage.

Agents also sell hamburger and hot dog lunches for donations and the money is divided among the three projects they worked on Thursday.

At Spiva Park, the day not only consisted of labor but also redesigning the gardens.

"Linda has been guiding us on where she wants the plants to go," Reaves said. "We want a good variety of color, heights and different flowering types so we're trying to be strategic in that way so the park is beautiful all the time."

Next for the park will be the installation of a tall sign bearing the name of the park, "Spiva," that is to be created by sculptor and painter Jorge Levya. An iris sculpture will be installed on the reverse side the sign. It is to be provided by the Spiva family.

Teeter said some of the park's fixtures such as the statue of the miner and the fountain that features cherub sprays and brick work will be evaluated for needed repairs.


Volunteers plant flowers in Spiva Park in downtown Joplin during a workday on Thursday. GLOBE — ROGER NOMER

Spiva's family also plans to have the statue of the park's namesake cleaned and repaired.