Posted on February 26, 2019
Ideas to be used in drafting funding proposal
By Tia Lyons
Want new playground equipment, a splash pad, restrooms or other new features in city parks and other outdoor recreation spaces?
El Dorado residents are invited to share their ideas for city parks during a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. March 5 in the Council Chamber of City Hall.
The hearing is being held by the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission.
Input from the public will be used to help draft a funding proposal for the El Dorado Works economic development tax, which went into effect in October 2015.
A conservative projection for tax revenue is $50 million over the 10-year life of the tax.
Fifteen percent of tax revenue dedicated to community development, with 6 percent going to parks and playgrounds, including sports, recreation and outdoor venues and projects.
Ken Goudy, president of the parks and playgrounds commission, has said the group needs to tap into the funding source to come up with a master plan to upgrade, improve and modify city parks.
Commissioners have said they intend to base the funding request on suggestions from the people who use the parks.
The EPPC took a similar approach in 2008 when a series of public hearings were held to help develop a master plan for park improvements.
The goal then was to tap into the former El Dorado Forward economic development tax, which was effective from 2007 until 2015, to pay for recommended projects.
A few months after the tax went into effect, the EPPC worked with then-City Planner Joe Hurst, now mayor of Van Buren, to develop a master plan for park improvements.
The city contracted with an engineering firm and landscape architects, who incorporated feedback from the public — which at the time included an aquatic/water-spray park and biking and jogging trails — into a master parks plan.
The plan was unveiled in 2008. Each city park was given a theme and a conceptual design with features that fit within the theme.
For instance, Mellor Park was designated as the “sports park.”
In addition to the existing tennis courts, the concept called for volleyball courts, basketball courts, a mini soccer/football field and an interactive water-play area.
The concept for Old City Park was “adventure” with a rock plaza/stage, skate park area with ramps and in-ground bowls, interactive waterplay area, wading pool, waterfall, an exercise circuit and terraced rock walls.
Features that were recommended for other parks included a rock climbing wall, an area to play horseshoes, etc.
The city completed some of the projects that were recommended in the master plan — one of which was a fishing pond at Mattocks Park.
Other recommended projects were completed with some variations. For instance, the master plan called for a dog park at Mosby Park. The EPPC and the city ultimately settled on a dog enclosure and playground at Mitchell Park.
Work began on the rock plaza/stage at Old City, but the project was not completed, as funding ran dry for a matching grant and city officials and parks and playgrounds commissioners changed course for improvement plans at Old City.
El Dorado Forward tax money was used for improvements at Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, which is also considered a city park.
A new pro shop and golfcart barn were built and with the help grant funds, the city built a walking/jogging/biking trail around the golf course and the adjacent Union County Fairgrounds.
With additional grant funds, the city is expanding the 2.25-mile trail to add another 3-plus miles.
In 2015, El Dorado Forward tax money was also used to purchase new playground equipment, benches, basketball goals, trash receptacles and other new equipment for several city parks.
At the time, city officials signed off on the creation of the position of parks and green space manager within the Department of Public Works to take care of day-to-day maintenance of city parks. The position is held by James Lewis.
Improvements to Bodenhamer Skate Park have also been made within the past decade.
In 2018, the Murphy Arts District opened a new children’s playscape as a part of its downtown entertainment complex. The cost of the project was covered by the El Dorado Works tax. The playscape includes water features.
Goudy was chairman of the EPPC when the 2008 master parks plan was unveiled. Now, he and other commissioners have said they want to hear from the public on ideas to help make city parks an even bigger draw for families with children.
Some ideas that have already been submitted include modifications parks to accommodate soccer and pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, pingpong, badminton and Wiffle ball.
Residents and commissioners have also cited the need for public restrooms in city parks.
There have long been discussions about how to prevent vandalism, with city officials pointing to frequent vandalism of the restrooms at Mellor Park, the only city park with tennis courts.
City Clerk Heather McVay said she has also heard ideas from teenagers and younger children about city park improvements.
Commissioners encourage such input.
“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,” Goudy said.
Commissioners are forgoing their regular monthly meeting for February to hold the public hearing March 5.
They chose 5:30 p.m. to allow the chance for people to attend the meeting after their workday.
People who are unable to attend the hearing may send written comments to McVay at 204 N. West Ave., El Dorado, AR, 71730 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The parks and playgrounds commission normally meets at noon the fourth Tuesday of the month in the Council Chamber of City Hall. The meetings are open to the public.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or email@example.com.