RECOGNITION DEBATE: Council Eyes Park Policy

PROPOSAL TO ADDRESS DONATIONS MADE BY INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS

— Donations starting at $5,000 to Fayetteville’s Park Department could earn a the donor a recognition plaque — even if it’s just 1-square-foot in size.

More sizable donations would translate to a larger recognition sign, according to a proposal heard by the City Council on Tuesday.

“We’re looking for avenues to develop assets for the city in some sort of private-public partnership,” Don Marr, Fayetteville chief of staff, told the council.

BY THE NUMBERS

Proposed Naming Policy For Fayetteville Parks

Copper: $5,000 to $10,000: Sign up to 1-square-foot in Size

Bronze: $10,000 to $25,000: Sign up to 4-square-feet in Size

Silver: $25,000 to $50,000: Sign up to 12-square-feet in Size

Gold: $50,000 to $100,000: Sign up to 16-square-feet in Size

Platinum: More than $100,000: City Council Approves Recognition

Source: Staff Report

Because two council members were absent Tuesday — Brenda Thiel and Robert Rhoads — the council tabled the proposal for now. The policy would address donations made by individuals, groups or businesses.

The issue raised a lively debate among council members regarding how much commercial message should be allowed in parks.

“I understand the intent, and I understand it’s important to give recognition,” said Sarah Lewis, an alderwoman from Ward 4, who has been critical of allowing signage in parks or along trails. “I just feel that with the right amount of money, they (businesses) could decide what’s the best place for their sign.”

Park officials stressed the recognition sign would be tasteful in both its design and placement in a park. Any plaques and signage would be “blended into that facility,” said Connie Edmonston, director of the Parks and Recreation Division. The program is meant to function as a mechanism to generate donors to park projects, she added.

Partnering with foundations or corporations is not unheard of when it comes to getting recreational or civic projects built, Marr said, as he reminded the council of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium or the Walton Arts Center. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation helped to pay for renovation of the University of Arkansas football stadium. The Walton family helps pay for the Walton Arts Center.

“As you go through that sort of decision you have to decide where do you want to be on that policy,” Marr told the council.

“We need to keep in mind that these are facility naming signs,” added Kit Williams, city attorney.

And sometimes, those partnerships are crucial to getting a project complete, added other council members.

“I would rather have that trail — say, a mile of that — at 2 feet by 2 feet, than not have it,” said Bobby Ferrell, a councilman from Ward 3 and a strong supporter of the new policy.

The measure to amend the city’s park policies was tabled until the next meeting. Also tabled until after the summer vacation when all council members will be back in town, was an ordinance to adopt a business license and registry program in Fayetteville.

“Staff and volunteers.... have worked too hard on this for it not to get a fair shake,” said Shirley Lucas, an alderwoman from Ward 4.