'Johnnie On The Spot' Brightens Meeker


Whether it's planting rows of flowers, restoring antique decor, or playing music for an enthusiastic audience, Johnnie Barton is busy making Meeker a more beautiful place to live.

Barton, who moved from California as a retiree about 15 years ago, presently holds two titles at the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District. He is both landscape project coordinator and parks crew coordinator.

"He does everything for everybody," said Bonnie Kracht at the Meeker Chamber of Commerce.

Kracht said before Barton arrived on the scene, Paintbrush Park was -- well, boring.

"He has beautified that park beyond the call of duty," she said.

Barton's efforts include relocating and restoring the town's oldest barn within the park's limits. Today it serves as a gathering place for Barton fans to enjoy his variety of musical talents. He sings and plays everything from fiddle to banjo. Once a week he takes his one-man show to the residential ward of Pioneers Hospital of Rio Blanco County, and the chuck wagon, where he entertains seniors during meals.

Paintbrush features other delights, such as an old homestead, complete with an outhouse, a 150-year-old merry-go-round, an archery range, a Frisbee golf course, numerous pavilions, a waterfall and hundreds of flowerbeds. Barton said his wife, Virginia, helps him with the many flower plants.

Each week 10 to 20 underprivileged children come to Paintbrush Park to care for a garden spot of their own and, as a group, tend to a garden filled with tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Barton also supervises inmates who assist him with the park's workload, as well as those who are serving community service hours.

According to Barton, his efforts are both pleasure, and duty.

"I'm a Christian, and I learned a long time ago about paying tithes. It's easy to pay tithes of money, but how many of us are also willing to pay ten percent of our time to our community?" he asked.

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