Parks’ rules taking on new roles

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Eureka Springs Parks commission met for a workshop at the Harmon Park office April 2, where the main topic was the review of City Park Directives. Director Justin Huss provided commissioners copies of the directives used by the State of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism for discussion of adoption into local parks policy, as city parks are receiving higher numbers of visitors each year and the need for park rules and policies is growing stronger. Huss said there need to be policies for the administration to refer to for operations to run smoothly. Commissioner Cameron DeNoewer agreed saying, “We need to make some clear simple statements,” and Huss added that if the commission will adopt and post clear policies for use of the parks, “Ignorance will not be an excuse.” 

Some current issues faced by the commission are protection of wildlife and their surroundings. “Don’t dig and don’t take anything from the park,” is policy for city, state and federal parks, according to Chair Bill Featherstone. 

Environmental polluting was discussed as commissioner Steven Foster said that someone changed engine oil in a vehicle at the Lake Leatherwood ballfields and left the oil and the filter in the park.   

Overbooking events is becoming problematic as some visitors are renting camping space to be used for single-family occupancy but using the space for large party events. Commissioners discussed how reservations are made, and that special events and large family events need to be able to clearly notify Parks of their anticipated attendance in an easy-to-use online reservation process. With the new downhill biking trails there are more concerns with the use of amplified stereo equipment. Commissioners discussed adopting policy prohibiting this and encouraging use of ear-buds as an alternative.   

More plastic bottles and trash are showing up in the parks, and commissioners said they need more volunteers to help with trash pickup in the Lake Leatherwood area. Huss introduced the idea of implementing culvert-catchers to minimize trash run-off within the parks. He said debris-control structures could be a program started within the parks system and if successful could be adopted throughout city operations. 

Featherstone was in favor of this type of trash-collection system and also recommended a policy prohibiting Styrofoam and single-use plastics within the parks.

Law and policy enforcement is also an issue in the city parks. Huss stated there are currently no police or park rangers regularly posted in the Lake Leatherwood or Black Bass Lake areas, which leaves local law enforcement heavily reliant upon both public notifications and on park staff to report any park rule violations. 

Discussion was approached regarding the training and arming of park staff, but the overall consensus was not in favor.  An increase of clear signage was discussed including the notification of leash laws and the prohibited use of pesticides and herbicides. 

After policy discussion is completed it will be finalized at a regular meeting and the commission intends to review the policy on an annual basis. The next regular Parks meeting will be held in the Auditorium at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.