CENTRAL POINT — Seizing an opportunity under sunny blue skies, usually slacks-wearing city officials and business owners donned jeans and t-shirts on Saturday, wielding wheelbarrows of fresh dirt, paintbrushes and shovels to breathe life into a sleepy downtown.

CENTRAL POINT — Seizing an opportunity under sunny blue skies, usually slacks-wearing city officials and business owners donned jeans and t-shirts on Saturday, wielding wheelbarrows of fresh dirt, paintbrushes and shovels to breathe life into a sleepy downtown.

Friday, a small prep crew installed two dozen planter baskets outside Pine Street businesses, and 50 or more students from St. Mary's and Crater high schools painted an ailing building and spent hours pulling weeds.

Saturday, volunteers were given a planting lesson from Grange Co-op garden gurus and were fueled with water bottles, orange slices and pizza.

Rogue Creamery employee Amanda Miller carefully poured dirt into planter baskets, noting, "I think this is great. The downtown needed it and I think it's really a step in the right direction for Central Point."

Bob Kelty, a chiropractor on Pine Street for 29 years, assisted in painting and plating for several hours Saturday.

"I even had to volunteer free chiropractic," he joked.

Like many business owners, Kelty said he was "glad to see the downtown getting some help."

City Administrator Phil Messina spent his day off helping with cleanup, painting and planting flowers. With a long list of improvements slated for the downtown, Messina said the downtown plan was one factor in his interviewing for his job with the city in 2002.

While the plan includes large scale improvements, such as traffic calming measures and pedestrian friendly improvements, smaller-scale improvements call for beautification measures like Saturday's efforts along with some 20 benches already on order and funded by various residents, a half-dozen murals, decorative trash receptacles, welcome banners and maybe a plaza in front of Ray's.

"The thing that got me, that sold me on coming here when I first interviewed for the job, was the downtown plan," Messina said. "There's a lot of potential here."

Community Development Director Tom Humphrey, passing out bottled water to volunteers around 10 a.m., stopped to inspect a painting job.

Pleased with Saturday's turnout, Humphrey said the downtown was seeing improvement "slowly but surely" since he arrived from Roseburg 10 years ago.

"I think having everyone come out like this gives the citizens and the business owners a vested interest in the downtown," he said.

Just nearby, 4-year-old Oliver VanVoorhees was clearly "vested" in his hard work filling various containers with fresh black dirt.

"I'm getting dirt ready so we can plant the flowers," he said quietly, pointing out he'd not been able to push the wheelbarrow because "it'll give me splinters."

David Gremmels, co-owner of Rogue Creamery, said Saturday's effort was inspiring.

"The downtown deserves to be a destination," he said. "I see more and more businesses coming in that will sustain the downtown and bring more focus to those artisan type businesses that, historically, created a destination in the downtown.

"I think, as we get back to those types of businesses that used to be here, things are coming sort of full circle. I think we're going to see a renaissance here."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.