MILTON-FREEWATER - Cities have symbols. Portland's a rose, St. Louis has a big arch, and the wind blows in Chicago. Just as people think of rodeos and blankets with Pendleton and watermelons with Hermiston, Milton-Freewater City Manager Delphine Palmer hopes when her city is mentioned a frog will leap into mind.

In an effort to attract visitors to her city and leave a lasting impression on them, Palmer and other city officials have invited Greg Stine, a national consultant for helping small cities find prosperity, to visit Monday, March 8 and Tuesday, March 9.

Stine will make a presentation to the Milton-Freewater City Council that Monday night. He will then meet with several groups Tuesday, capping that with a Town Hall Meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Albee Room of the Milton-Freewater Library.

Palmer said Stine is excited about delving into the depths of Muddy Frogwater.

"There are many communities that can say they're the Base of the Blue Mountains, the Foot of the Blues or the Gateway to the Blues," she said. "Milton-Freewater's community logo was the Home of Low-Cost Utilities. That just doesn't make people want to visit you."

Palmer said because Milton-Freewater is limited in land size, it can't really attract big businesses. The frog, she said, is a way to place the community on the map for visitors.

She said the first step of this plan is signs featuring the beloved amphibian greeting people as they drive into town. There will be a new flag pole soon, and she'd like to see the frog appear there, in the form of a statue.

"Then, we're going to put in a big clock at City Hall with benches," she said. "I'd like to see a frog sitting on one of the benches with his armed draped across the back so you can actually sit next to the frog."

Those are just the projects Palmer envisions Milton-Freewater completing this year. She wants a statue of the frog skateboarding at the new Freewater Skate Park. She envisions a statue of a frog lying on his stomach reading a book with his webbed feet stuck in the air at the library. There are no limits to the frogly possibilities in Palmer's vision.

"We want to get everyone on the same page with this," she said. "We want to get going on the same path. People can fix up their yards and decorate the outside of their houses with frogs," she said.

Palmer said Milton-Freewater won't have one frog alone as its symbol.

"We're not going to limit ourselves to one frog," she said. "Any frog is fine, as long as it's whimsical and not a toad."

Milton-Freewater has its annual Muddy Frogwater Festival, the name of which has not been without its detractors. Palmer realizes asking people who remember that Muddy Frogwater was once graffiti scrawled on a city limits sign to get behind the frog as a symbol is asking a great deal.

"I hope the people who have criticized it will come to the town meeting," she said. "If this isn't the right way to go, I hope they have some suggestions of another way to help Milton-Freewater attract visitors, tourists and housing."

The frog theme will be apparent at the meeting itself. Palmer promises door prizes, green punch and frog-shaped cookies. She also said plans are in the works to put the new Milton-Freewater frog-friendly logo on city vehicles.

"We're looking into having a leap frog theme to the overpass," she said. "We will get frog pins and frogs on the water towers. Rep. Greg Smith asked us for two frog signs for Sen. David Nelson and himself to hang in their offices in Salem."

Palmer said the time has come for the Home of Low -Cost Utilities to take a leap and embrace Muddy Frogwater.

"I'm hoping the public will really jump on board with the frog," she said. Muddy Frogwater planning sessions

Greg Stine of Polaris, Inc., will discuss marketing plans for Milton-Freewater at a variety of sessions on March 8-9.

• Monday at 7 p.m., City Council meeting at City Hall.

• Tuesday at 7 a.m., Chamber of Commerce members and merchants at the Old Town Restaurant meeting room.

• Tuesday at noon, joint Rotary/Community Development Partnership meeting in the Rotary Room at the Milton-Freewater Community Center.

• Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., Town Hall meeting in the Albee Room of the Milton-Freewater Public Library.

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