An arrangement of artificial orange flowers is tacked to the 2-foot-tall wooden cross on the grassy shoulder of southbound Lake Hefner Parkway.
Next to the cross, red-and-white tinsel with artificial poinsettias are wrapped around an exit sign for NW 63. The decorations have become weathered in the four months since Christmas.
Crosses dot the side of the highway. Sometimes there are flowers or pictures. Sometimes there are metal sculptures or small statues.
Roadside memorials are prohibited by law on public rights of way in Oklahoma, but the law is not enforced, authorities say.
A mother whose daughter was killed in an Edmond crash kept a cross at the site of the wreck for years, said Janella Tears, 58, of Edmond.
Tears founded the Oklahoma Victim's Impact Panel Inc. 22 years ago. She said grieving families have various reasons for roadside memorials.
Some place a cross along the highway as a message to the public that a life was ended by a drunken driver, she said. For others, the cross is a symbolic marker of the soul's journey.
“I knew a mother who said, “I don't look at it as the place my daughter died, but as an entry point to heaven,'” Tears said.
Melissa Cornelius, 35, of Mangum, regularly visits a 4-foot-tall steel cross in memory of her niece, Sierra Jo Cook, 13, who was killed riding in a vehicle Dec. 23, 2008.
Cook was a passenger in the vehicle when the driver, who had been drinking, dropped a cellphone and tried to pick it up, Cornelius said.
Students from an agriculture class at her school built the cross. It's on private property near the county road shoulder about two miles northwest of Magnum. A traffic is light nearby, but the yellow-painted cross is not a distraction to drivers, she said.
“This is the place for us to visit,” Cornelius said. “It's our families' place to visit. On birthdays, anniversaries, holidays we go there to grieve.”
The memorial also is a reminder to other drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving, Cornelius said.
Not a problem
Such crosses are not a problem for Oklahoma City mowing crews that maintain the rights of way, said parks department spokeswoman Jennifer McClintock.
Wooden crosses or other displays usually don't last long. They decay or blow away, McClintock said.
State mowing crews also encounter illegal memorials in rights of way.
But state troopers who enforce laws along roadways are not ticketing anyone for roadside memorials, said trooper Betsy Randolph, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman.
People put all kinds of signs in rights of way, she said. Mowing crews sometimes pick up memorials, mow, then place them back, or mow around them, she said.
“We are very sympathetic to people who have lost loved ones in collisions,” Randolph said. “We don't have a problem with them. We don't think they are a distraction.”
Some troopers feel a bond with families that have lost people in wrecks, Randolph said.
“We know how lives can be instantly changed by vehicular deaths,” she said.
People often visit the makeshift memorials, and troopers urge them to be cautious near traffic and wear reflective vests so motorists see them, she said.
“We sympathize with the families and understand why they would want to do something like that,” Randolph said.