Park Perks

Park Perks

City of Fayetteville sorting out potential projects


Millions of dollars could improve parks and recreation in Fayetteville, but on what projects is up for debate.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will consider two lists of possible projects, one totaling $20 million and another at $25 million, at its Sept. 10 meeting. Board members took a first look during a special meeting Aug. 23.

The list is expected to form a question to voters as part of a potential bond renewal next year.

Estimated total money generated from a bond referendum is $200 million, which the city would take 16 years to pay back with revenue from the city’s existing 1 percent sales tax for capital improvements, said Paul Becker, chief financial officer.

Each category of projects, from public safety to street improvements, would be a separate ballot measure for voters to consider.

City administrators are aiming to hold a vote in March. The City Council will consider both lists and decide the final projects late this year.

The city is taking recommendations in the meantime. Parks Department staff members compiled the lists. Parks Director Connie Edmonston said the proposals present opportunities for new features and will enhance what people already enjoy about recreation in the city.

“They’re all very attainable goals, and they’re exciting ones that our community has expressed interest in,” she said.

Notable items include building four more baseball fields at Kessler Mountain Regional Park, setting up camping at Lake Sequoyah, upgrading the community parks, building a nature trail at Lake Fayetteville and opening a paddle park at the West Fork of the White River.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the dollar amount for parks represents a combination of what staff has heard from the public and what the city’s administration can likely handle.

“We take the $25 million or whatever we want to do, and we just kind of start splitting up the pie,” he said. “We just needed something we could start with. Then we put it out there and start letting the people weigh in, we start letting the council weigh in, and then we’ll get it worked out.”

What made the list?

The biggest chunk would go to the regional park at Kessler. Nearly $6.9 million would finish building the baseball fields, which would bring the total to eight, add restrooms and concession space and put in more parking and a traffic light at Cato Springs Road. Artificial turf also would go in at the baseball infields.

There’s still nearly $20 million worth of work planned for the park, excluding the amount for the baseball fields. The park’s master plan calls for two courts each for tennis, basketball and sand volleyball, a pond, playground, pavilions, amphitheater, restrooms, another soccer field and softball fields.

So far the park has the four baseball fields, six soccer fields, restroom and concession buildings, parking and basic infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, an entry road and temporary trailhead to the mountain. Additional features will come in phases.

Jordan said the city made a commitment to building out the regional park that it can’t shirk. Right now, nearly 1,000 children play youth baseball split between Kessler and Walker parks.

“I want to see those fields built. I think that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Depending on the plan, $6.1 million or $5.1 million would be for improvements to community parks: Bryce Davis, Gulley, Walker and Wilson.

Bryce Davis would get the most attention. That park is the least developed of the four and serves a fairly large population in the northwest quadrant of the city, said Ted Jack, park planner.

A preliminary outline would dedicate nearly $2.5 million or nearly $2.3 million to put features at the lake, build trails, spruce up the dog park and establish a family hub. Jack said the park would need its own plan to get into the specifics.

About $3.6 million would establish a paddle park at the West Fork of the White River. The Parks Board got an introduction to the concept in January from the Watershed Conservation Resource Center, Arkansas Canoe Club and Beaver Watershed Alliance.

The money would help restore the river near the dilapidated dam between the White River and Combs parks, remove the dam and put in recreational facilities. The old pump house would be renovated, with pavilions, restrooms and a multiuse field.

Other proposed projects may not have as high a price tag, but would have a big impact, Jack said. Both plans have $800,000 for the first phase of a campground at Lake Sequoyah.

Veterans Park at Lake Fayetteville could have $650,000 to $1 million in improvements. Ballfield renovations could run $100,000 to $150,000.

A proposed nature trail through the lake forest with a bridge is included in the more ambitious plan at $550,000.

“That’s relatively speaking a small project, but I think it’s going to be something that people really enjoy going to,” Jack said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Gavan Irvin, 4, of Fayetteville runs Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, as he dribbles a ball past his coach and father Aaron Irvin while practicing with teammates at Kessler Mountain Regional Park in Fayetteville. The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will consider $20 million to $25 million in proposed projects for a potential bond renewal vote next year. On the list is nearly $6.9 million dedicated to building four more baseball fields at the regional park

What didn’t make the list?

Two topics came up during the parks board’s special meeting — buying Lewis Park and building an indoor aquatics facility.

As it stands, both lists have $1.9 million dedicated to land acquisition. If no acquisitions can be made, the money would go toward park improvements.

The city since 2003 has leased Lewis Park near Asbell Elementary from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Late last year, the university system Board of Trustees decided to sell the property for its appraised $4.1 million value after the lease expires this summer.

The city and university agreed in late July to extend the lease for another year while the city and School District work on an agreement to buy the property. Jordan said the $1.9 million might cover the city’s end for acquisition. The city is getting its own appraisal.

Will Dockery, who has led a resident campaign to keep the 27-acre property as a park, said he worries something might happen if the School District can’t pay its part.

Dockery’s campaign has raised about $5,000 to put toward buying the park. If a deal gets worked out, the money would be donated to help build it out, he said.

“I think it’s best to be prepared for any and all outcomes, so that’s what we’re trying to do here — just be prepared,” he said.

Anita Parisi, a swimming instructor who has helped establish a number of swimming programs and leagues in the region, said the city needs an indoor recreational facility. She touted the benefits of a swimming facility specifically, which promote safety, health, education and socialization across age groups and genders in the community, she said.

Parks officials say such a facility could cost $10 million to $15 million. Parisi said she feels more voters would give a yes to a $25 million bond issue for parks that includes a year-round, community-accessible indoor facility.

She’s putting together a campaign to get Fayetteville up to par with Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville, all of which have publicly accessible indoor swimming pools, she said.

An ambitious endeavor such as an indoor recreational facility doesn’t seem feasible for the bond list, Edmonston said. Operational costs would require a hard look and couldn’t be paid for with a one-time revenue source such as a bond issue, she said. There’s also the location, she added.

“That one needs some more study,” Edmonston said. “That’s not something we can just up and do real quickly.”

Richie Lamb, Parks Board chairman, said it’s possible board members will recommend revisions to the lists before they head to the City Council. Lamb said he supports both lists as proposed from staff, but residents have the power to influence the final decision.

“A lot of things might change by the time the council, who actually controls all this money, takes our recommendation,” he said.



Possible projects

The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will review a list of proposals for a potential bond renewal next year. There are two lists: a $25 million proposal and a $20 million proposal. Differences are denoted per item:



• Baseball/parking — $6,870,000

• Artificial turf — $1,000,000/$0

Lake Fayetteville

• Veterans Park improvements — $1,000,000/$650,000

• Ballfield area renovations — $150,000/$100,000

• Lake Forest nature trail — $550,000/$0

Lake Sequoyah

• Phase I camping/study — $800,000


Bryce Davis

• Park improvements — $2,500,000/$2,250,000


• Park improvements — $795,000/$485,000


• Park improvements — $2,260,000/$2,010,000


• Park improvements — $550,000/$400,000


YRCC/Buddy Hayes — $1,000,000/$0

Existing neighborhood parks — $750,000/$510,000

New neighborhood parks — $600,000/$400,000


Combs paddle/nature park — $3,625,000

Nature in city — $650,000/$0

Land acquisition — $1,900,000

Total — $25 million/$20 million

Source: Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department

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