MEET THE CERATO FAMILY…PLEASE SHARE
Our house sits on the iconic Norman Conquest route, a Bicycle League of Norman sponsored ride to conquer the mid-July heat and hills of east Norman. With rolling hills, a beautiful Cross Timbers ecosystem, proximity to Lake Thunderbird and wildlife galore, east Norman is a treasure. We fortuitously rode this famous route several times with our new friends from the friendly bike league in late 2004 and passed a vacant house on a large tree-covered lot that was for sale. We bought this fixer-upper in early 2005. We were a talented contractor and professional civil engineering team, so anything that was broken or needed re-working, we could fix it with our own hands and sweat equity. We slept in every room in the house in those early years, including the dining room, as we updated and fixed each room one at a time. Every single surface in our house has been touched at least once, if not twice, as we brought the house back to life over the last 18 years.
We have adopted and loved six dogs and been blessed with three beautiful little girls; the youngest who was born in this very house in late 2016 under the watchful eye of a Certified Practicing Midwife. We have built a custom cedar playhouse in and around the tree canopy that all members of the family can play on and our girls can work on projects, schoolwork, read and relax in. We have amended and worked the soil into a prolific food-producing garden, as well as planted thousands of square feet of native perennials that has been designated an official Monarch Waystation. We have chronicled the annual happenings on our land in a journal since the beginning; from the first and last frost, to the arrival of the hummingbirds, to the rotation and inventory of the gardens and wildlife sitings throughout the property.
We have worked with the land to retain storm water runoff and capture rainwater to use in our gardens and replaced dozens of trees that were destroyed in the 2010 EF-4 tornado that ripped through our front yard. Our daughters maintain a large flock of chickens that provide us eggs and many life-lessons, including the circle of life. We have created nature trails throughout the property to explore the Morell mushrooms, Barite Rose Rocks, wildlife habitat, native berries and to be immersed in the glory of rural living. We have a greenhouse where our tropical plants live in the winter and where we start all our seedlings for the upcoming season. A dozen or so hummingbirds make our flower gardens and timberland an annual home each summer. We live in paradise; our paradise. A paradise that we have worked hard to make uniquely ours as we created memories with our family and friends.
This paradise came under threat on February 22, 2022 when the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority released their proposed $5-billion-dollar ACCESS program. The 6-lane divided, 400-foot wide South Extension Turnpike would run right through our living room and all of our ten acres would be destroyed. My initial reaction was shock, which in a few days turned to complete and utter sadness, which then quickly turned to anger and a desire to stand up and stop this monstrosity from destroying our lives. I rushed my daughters out of soccer practice to attend the March 3rd townhall at the Crosspointe Church at Norman. Thankfully we got in the door and found a spot toward the back; over a thousand people tried to get in but it was standing room only. I had no idea how it was going to go down, but I wanted answers. I had no intention of speaking out at that meeting when I first walked in the door, but when our Ward 5 Councilman called for public comment, I found myself walking quickly down the aisle to stand in line. Emotions were high and people were rightfully angry about the unjustified and unneeded turnpikes that threatened their homes and lands, but most were venting pure emotion about not wanting to lose their homes. My focus was on making those engineers on stage answer questions about WHY THESE ROUTES. I should have realized then that the turnpike routes had nothing to do with sound engineering practices and nothing to do with the “greater good.” The entire proposed project, however, does have everything to do with money and power for the elite businessmen and contractors, built on the backs of Oklahoma Citizens being thrown off their land. These engineers couldn’t answer anything then, and three months later, they still refuse to provide any substantive answers to my engineering questions regarding WHY THESE ROUTES.
From that day forward, a group of concerned citizens quickly started a non-profit group called PIKE OFF OTA, INC. and we have made waves at the Capitol with our legislators, educating our elected officials about the business practices of the turnpike authority, their history of failed promises and lack of accountability. Our small but mighty group has gained momentum and won small battles along the way. We have filed two meritorious lawsuits; the first seeking to stop the turnpikes because the OTA has no legislative authority in Statute 69, Section 1705 to build the South Extension and the Outer Loop: East-West Connector. The second lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief to prevent the OTA from taking property by eminent domain based on the OTA’s willful violation of this state’s Open Meeting Act.
Every citizen of Oklahoma should be concerned about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority having unchecked state sovereign powers of eminent domain to build toll roads. Currently, they are legislatively authorized by Title 69, Section 1705(e) to build in dozens of areas across the state with the potential to affect over 600,000 Oklahomans. While Norman, Oklahoma is affected today, you could be affected next. Please stand and fight with us and help us put a stop to this most egregious violation of our personal property rights and pursuit of happiness. Join us at pikeoffota.com and sign up for our weekly newsletter and action alerts. If you are so inclined, we need volunteers to help us write letters, staff events, talk with legislators and support legal actions. Please volunteer with us and/or donate to our fight. Our freedoms that many have fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for are at stake and we must stand together, united against tyranny.