Posted on October 24, 2018
By Tia Lyons
El Dorado residents are being invited to share their input and ideas for improvements to city parks and recreation spaces.
On Tuesday, the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission took its annual tour of city parks and agreed to schedule public meetings in the coming weeks to solicit feedback from residents.
With Mayor Frank Hash behind the wheel, commissioners hopped aboard the city’s trolley bus and visited Neel, Mattocks and Mosby parks.
The group also briefly stopped by Lions Club Municipal Golf Course and conducted a driveby view of the former McKinney Park on Beech.
McKinney was decommissioned as a city park in a master improvement plan that was drafted in 2008. The city maintains the area as green space with a basketball court and a couple of picnic tables.
An El Dorado Water Utilities’ elevated water storage tank also sits on the property.
After discussions that took place on the trolley and over lunch at Mattocks Park, commissioners decided to plan the public meetings to allow residents the opportunity to share their ideas.
The group is working to develop an improvement plan — including proposed projects and costs — to tap into the city’s one-cent, economic development tax, known as El Dorado Works.
Six percent of tax revenue is dedicated to parks and playgrounds, including sports, recreational, outdoor venues or projects.
With a call for public input, the parks and playgrounds commission is taking a similar approach as the team that developed the master parks plan in 2008.
Residents attended a series of public meetings to voice their wants, needs and concerns about city parks.
The 2008 plan was drafted by McClelland Consulting Engineering, Inc., and gave several city parks their own theme.
A few of the recommended projects were completed with some variations, but the plan was not fully implemented. At the time, parks and playgrounds commissioners said their hands were tied due to a lack of available funding.
The total budget estimate was $5.5 million for work at Mattocks, Mosby, Mitchell, Oakhurst, Old City and Mellor parks.
In the years following the development of the plan, city officials and the parks and playgrounds commission pulled from the former El Dorado Forward economic development tax for several park upgrades
A new pro shop and golf cart barn were built for Lions Club and in 2015, the city launched a $231,000 project to install new equipment — playground units, pavilions, picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles, basketball goals and water fountains with pet attachments — at several of the parks that were included in the 2008 plan and at the city’s walking trail that encircles the golf course and the Union County Fairgrounds.
Lions Club and Bodenhamer skate parks were also a part of the 2015 package. Bodenhamer had previously gotten a facelift with new skatepark equipment.
During the EPPC tour Tuesday, Hash noted that the basketball goals at Lions Club were holding up “really well.”
“This court gets a lot of play over here,” Hash said.
To help keep park equipment and grounds maintained, the city created the position of city parks and greenspace manager to oversee day-to-day maintenance.
James Lewis now holds the position.
While assessing the parks they toured Tuesday, commissioners revisited discussions about the need for public restrooms at city parks.
Commissioners, Lewis and Hash used Neel and Mosby as prime examples of parks that are heavily used in the city.
Hash reiterated his reluctance to build public restrooms without a solid plan to prevent vandalism.
“Mr. Lewis can tell you some stories about those restrooms. It can get really nasty, and we’re not going to have our guys spending all their time cleaning up other people’s poop,” Hash said.
Commissioner David Hurst suggested installing surveillance cameras, saying that while the cameras may not stop vandals, they can help curb the frequency with which vandalistic acts occur.
Lewis pointed out that one complaint about Neel Park has been addressed with the growth of new grass on the field.
City Clerk Heather McVay said she has heard complaints about the need for grass on the dirt field, and now, she hears compliments about the grass.
Lewis said the lights need to be improved at Neel and Mosby.
“The wood is so old that a couple of the lights have fallen off. The lights need to be redone,” he said.
Lewis said fencing is another issue that needs to be addressed at Mosby, telling commissioners that the fence posts are old and rusted.
Hash said the bleachers have been rebuilt at Mosby and roofs installed on the dugouts.
Lewis said the city is also working to repair the entrance sign at Lions Club. The sign was damaged when it was struck by a vehicle last month. Such incidents have occurred several times over the years at Lions Club.
Lewis said the project has been approved, and the city is awaiting the availability of a bricklayer.
City Council Member Billy Blann asked if some of the old bricks could be used in the repairs, and Lewis said yes.
Hash said the city used bricks that were donated by a Monroe, Louisiana, brick company to set the bases for new signs that have been erected at city parks.
Ken Goudy, chairman of the EPPC, said details about the public meetings are forthcoming.
Commissioner Alexis Alexander said the meetings should be scheduled before the holiday season gets into full swing.
Goudy, who was chairman of the EPPC when the 2008 master plan was drafted, added “We need public feedback. We want people from all areas of town to tell us what they would like to see in the parks in the different areas of town.”
To share ideas about city parks, residents may call McVay at 870-881-4877 or visit the city’s Facebook page.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com .