Upgrades OK’d at Lake Leatherwood

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Parks Director Justin Huss brought his shopping list to the August 15 Parks Commission meeting. Top of the list was two new goals for the big soccer field at Lake Leatherwood City Park. He passed around photos of goals to choose from, and after a bit of discussion the commission voted to approve allocating up to $3500 for soccer goals and field improvements.

Huss was just getting started. Next he mentioned he has a dead Ford Ranger, a dead Jeep Liberty and a golf cart that dies but might be fixable. He said the priority would be to get a utility vehicle called a side-by-side followed closely by two golf carts, and his inclination was for new, not used. He added the side-by-side is also a rescue vehicle.

Chair Bill Featherstone asked what the ideal vehicle fleet at LLCP would look like, and Huss listed a side-by-side, golf cart, four-wheeler, flat bed and a small truck with the truck being least priority.

Featherstone replied if staff can maintain the equipment, he was in favor of buying new one at a time as finances allow.

Commissioner Ruth Hager commented the side-by-side seemed like a good investment, and commissioners voted unanimously to authorize Huss to spend up to $16,000 for a new side-by-side.

The marina was the last stop on the shopping trip. Huss told commissioners two old pedal boats were kaput, and now only a four-person pedal boat is available. He mentioned pedal boats are popular rentals, and there was still $2300 remaining from funds allocated last year to upgrade the marina fleet. The new boats purchased last summer have already paid for themselves, and they were revenue-generators even during the winter.

Commissioners approved allocating an additional $5000 for the marina purchases.

Down the hatch

Huss said he climbed down into the spring that runs underneath Basin Spring Park. He removed a sizable amount of muck and such from the bottom and was inspired by what he saw. “It’s a crime not to be doing more with it,” he said.

He also suggested the band shell deserved some paint and a lighting upgrade because Basin Park is such an important place in the city.

At Harmon Park, besides some tree trimming and other cleanup, there was a visit by a group of skateboarders who travel around the country and video themselves at different skate parks, so skateboarders somewhere are watching Eureka Springs in a video.

The new trails near Black Bass Lake are near completion after which attention will go toward trails in town with the eventual goal of connecting all the trail systems.

Committee reports

Jim Helwig said the Springs Committee is focusing on getting word out about low impact development. He suggested a community workshop with buy-ins from the mayor and other commissions. He said the committee visited the development on East Mountain that requires LID strategies for all homes, and he considered it a model for future developments.

The committee also continues to work on solutions to stormwater runoff in town.

Helwig announced several area workshops and conferences related to water management including the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium in Eureka Springs Oct. 16-20. The theme will be “An Ancient Land with Modern Problems.” Workshops will focus on Bat Management, Dye Tracing and Reducing Sediment from Unpaved Roads. The event will be at the Basin Park Hotel.

Commissioner Steven Foster announced Bee City USA would present a webinar, “The Plant-Pollinator Connection: Why Pollinators Need Native Plants.” on Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 2-3 p.m., location to be announced depending on the number of attendees. Dr. Doug Tallamy will be the featured speaker.

Also there will be a Native Plant Fair at the Community Center Saturday, Sept. 30 – Sunday, Oct. 1. Native plants will be available for purchase. Foster will make a presentation, and other speakers include Theo Witsell, senior botanist and ecologist for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and a Research Associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and Scott Woodruff, horticulturalist and native plant specialist. For more information, contact Chris Fischer at cmaxfisch@gmail.com.

Foster commented the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists discussed having a Naturalist in Training program in Eureka Springs beginning in January, but nothing has been finalized. This would be a 40-hour course.

Friends of Parks

Commissioner Ferguson Stewart announced he has moved forward with his Friends of Parks idea in which he hopes to recruit a cadre of willing volunteers to take on projects in the city’s parks. He is using the Friends of Hobbs application as a start for how to design one for Eureka Springs. He had also identified two possible volunteer coordinator candidates. Huss insisted the volunteer group be structured independent of any Parks committee, though it might work with all of them.

Chairman’s comments

Featherstone remarked Eureka Springs has never had a consistent, cohesive long-term vision, and therefore its energy is spent putting out the fires of the day. Well-intended attempts at a Master Plan eventually land on a shelf and collect dust in the dark, and he asserted the fault lies with everyone.

In response, he wants to develop and implement a plan to take cars off the road and make the city easier to navigate on foot or by bicycle. He envisioned new decent sidewalks instead of goat trails beside busy streets, safe routes to school, and safe fitness trails for everyone. He said the town deserves better pathways for pedestrians, but there must be an actionable plan or the improvements will not happen.

A focus group will form soon to discuss and create the plan, and Featherstone encouraged citizens to get involved. “It is time to look past the trees and see the forest and put a plan in place,” he stated. He urged long-term planning and a collective effort, not a repeat of past inaction.

Other items

  • There is one vacancy on the commission.
  • Parks is looking for someone to rebuild their website.

Next workshop will be Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m., at Harmon Park. Next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m.