Large colorful pots line the highway in Miami. Currently four line the highway, but Miami plans to add another 7 or 8. Photo by LCGross.
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Gateway of colorful pots welcome addition to Miami

“Recycling at its best.”

That’s what Patty Bringhurst calls the project lining the gateway to Miami with painted pots, which are really not pots at all.

Rather, they are manhole collars that had been sitting the Town of Miami’s Public Works’ Yard for 10 or 15 years now.

Town staff ran across the manhole collars as they were clearing the yard in preparation for APS’ gas plant remediation project, scheduled to begin July 8.

“They cleared out the old structures and auctioned off old equipment,” said Miami Town Councilwoman Patty Bringhurst.

In the process, Miami Town Manager Joe Heatherly and Public Works Director Tom Moreno came up with the idea to repurpose these old manholes, asking Bringhurst to paint them.

“It could be a great signature piece for Miami,” said Bringhurst, who is also a local artist.

Heatherly said, “I saw the manhole collars and said, ‘Why don’t we just invert them and make them into planters?”

He calls it part of Miami’s overall beautification program, “just keep sprucing things up.”

“We are trying to take the focus away from old dilapidated buildings and maybe spur people to paint another building,” he says.

Heatherly said Bringhurst’s pots project goes right along with the town’s ongoing sewer project, APS’ gas plant remediation project and BHP’s efforts to shore up the old bridge at its entrance.

Public Works Director Tom Moreno and artist/Councilwoman Patti Bringhurst. Photo by Carol Broeder.

Bringhurst began the work about three months ago after receiving approval from her fellow council members.

“I came up with a lot of different options and showed them to town council. I really wanted to go with a talavera pot concept or more of an old Spanish style design,” Bringhurst said. “The final decision was ‘Arizona nature,’ so that’s why you’re seeing roadrunners, coyotes, cactus, Gila monsters and hummingbirds.”

And there are more where that came from—quail, bobcats, a woodpecker in a saguaro and four more, as well, as six or eight of the former manhole collars have yet to be painted.

“They should line the entire curve when it’s complete,” she said, referring to the snaky portion of Highway 60 between Claypool and Miami.

Once all pots are in place, it will be in time to put plants into them, which Bringhurst describes as a huge undertaking, “picking, potting, watering and no money.”

Manhole covers sitting in a lot in Miami awaiting their transformation into colorful pots. Photo by Carol Broeder

“It’s a challenge and I for one would love to see some nonprofits or individuals show some interest in sponsoring a pot or two,” she said.

Heatherly said that the town is currently working with Chris Jones, with the University of Arizona, to find drought tolerant plants for use in the pots.

The town also plans to install a drip system to help keep them watered, he says.

Bringhurst is spearheading the beautification of Miami and one of her ongoing projects is creating downtown pocket parks.

“The Miami Business Alliance (MBA) is trying to clean up downtown for our visitors, even if it’s one lot at a time,” said Bringhurst, who is MBA’s president.

Public Works cleaned up the two vacant lots just east of the Guayo’s El Rey Restaurant, at 716 Sullivan St., and Bringhurst is working on the artwork to make pocket parks there.

She called it “the town’s way of cleaning up some major eyesores around the downtown area.”

“We have a lot of visitors that make their way to Guayo’s for a savory meal and reminisce of times gone by in this little town,” Bringhurst said. “A lot of them walk off their meal by strolling down Sullivan.”

The two vacant lots were becoming engulfed by weeds and neglect, so Moreno and his staff cleaned up all the weeds and overgrown desert broom, leaving a clean palette, she said.

An empty lot was turned into a ‘pocket park’ to encourage people to linger downtown. Courtesy Photo

“I really wanted to clean those lots up and make a welcome place to stop by and reflect,” Bringhurst said.

Longtime Miami residents Tony and Ester Sanchez have been showing the pocket park off to all their visitors and have rallied up some money for plants, she said.

Guayos donated the first bench, which they are currently having repainted.

“Everyone can be a part of this,” Bringhurst said. “RAM has shown some interest in doing another pocket park on the 60 highway.”

Another one of Bringhurst’s projects is painting the Keystone stairs, with the town picking up the cost of the paint, Heatherly said.

“Since the Fourth of July parade was coming to Miami this year, I asked the town manager if we could paint the stairs,” Bringhurst said. “It’s our way of saying we are proud Americans and proud and honored to have the parade here.”

It’s also a way to bring some attention to downtown Miami, she added.

“We may not have a lot of stores open, but the ones we do have show the Miami spirit—look at the good in life, pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and get to living,” Bringhurst said. “We aren’t done yet.”

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