SPRINGDALE — A splash pad. A dog park. Hiking trails. An obstacle course.
Springdale parks will feature these amenities and more if voters approve a bond issue of $21.3 million. The vote Feb. 13 includes money for other city projects for a total of $200 million. The bonds would be paid by extending a 1-cent sales tax.
Springdale residents will vote on a $200 million bond issue to pay for projects in five areas. The sixth question on the ballot asks voters to renew a 1 percent sales tax to pay the bonds. The renewal must pass for any of the projects to be funded. Estimated costs and projects are:
• $71.4 million for street improvement.
• $47.4 million to refinance debt.
• $40.8 million for a criminal justice center and renovate the city administration building.
• $19.4 million for parks and trails.
• $16.4 million for three fire stations.
• $5.2 million to replace the animal shelter.
Source: Staff report
This is the third in a six-part series on the proposed Springdale bond issue. For more information, visit nwaonline.com/springdalebond.
The bond would pay for two major park projects, said Mayor Doug Sprouse: The new Shaw Family Park in the far northwest area of town and renovating Randal Tyson Recreational Complex. The city would use any remaining money for projects at other parks.
The city maintains seven parks in addition to an aquatic center, a recreation center and 10 miles of the Razorback Greenway. The C.L. “Charlie” and Willie George Park in southeast Springdale opened in 2016, built with money from the 2012 and 2013 bond issues. The city completed a renovation of Murphy Park in central Springdale and Bobby Hopper Park to the east in 2017.
“Parks are great in terms of economic development,” said David Morley from the American Planning Association in Chicago. “They give you a great bang for your buck.”
They can raise property value as well as spur development, although specific details vary from community to community, park to park, he said.
“With a sizable, high-profile new park, it only stands to reason that development would increase,” Morley said. “That development could be residential or commercial, depending on the context of the park. The amenities of a downtown park would appeal to employers trying to attract better quality workforce, while a park farther out would spur residential development.”
Morley and Sprouse both expect Shaw park and the nearby bypass of U.S. 412 to attract residents to that northwest corner of the city.
“This side of town, with the bypass coming just to the north, could be becoming really big,” said Derrion Hardie, a resident of the Legendary subdivision in the northwest part of town.
“Parks aren’t just ball fields,” said Bill Mock, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “You can go to any park in the city and have a different experience. Not everybody wants to catch a ball.”
The design of Shaw park near Elm Springs shows a wooded area, open lawns and walking trails. Sprouse likened the concept to Central Park in New York City.
“I’m excited for the northwest park,” he said. “It will have a lot of amenities spread out over 120 acres, so nothing will seem crowded.”
Hardie says it will bring pride to the area and foster family relationships as parents and grandparents join children in activities.
“I always advocate anything that can improve the community,” he said.
The park will be on land the city bought with money from the 2012 bond issue. The design includes four adult softball fields with a concession stand and restrooms, two more restrooms, tennis courts, a community room, a fishing pond, a dog park and the obstacle course.
Construction costs would range from $10 million to $12 million, Sprouse said. A fire station would be built on a corner of the land if voters approve it.
Randal Tyson park renovation would include new lighting, new concession areas, new bathrooms, replacing the chain-link backstops with netting, more parking for the Miracle League fields and bringing the park into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was passed after the park opened, Sprouse said.
He estimated renovation cost at $5 million.
The plan also includes a splash pad and a dog park. Park goers probably would notice the cosmetic changes most in the form of parking, landscaping and trails, Sprouse said.
“It will include a lot of amenities we’ve found popular in other parks,” Sprouse said. “The park was built in the late 1980s. It’s tired, and it’s the busiest park.”
The Tyson family retains ownership of the land on which the park is built and provides it to the city for $1 on a 25-year lease, which was renewed in 2010.
Gary Reed of Springdale agrees with the need for renovation. The park’s last face lift came in 1993 when the city hosted the Babe Ruth World Series for 13-year-olds, he said. Mock said only the fields were updated for the series, and the park has had no “face lift” in the nearly 30 years since it was built.
“The fields are in pretty good shape. But I think we need to add more fields,” Reed said. “We need more soccer fields.”
Reed coached his two children, Calob and Chloe, in boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and basketball. His son plays on the Spring-dale High School baseball team on a field at the park dedicated to the team.
“I’m always for anything that helps the kids,” Reed said. “The more you give them to do, the more they stay out of trouble. I’m for anything that would improve sports for the family. I don’t even own a bicycle, and I like the greenway.”
Hardie said the city takes good care of the ball fields. He serves as the head coach for the Ecclesia College baseball team, which also has a dedicated field at the park.
He noted city workers have brought small enhancements to his field in the last couple months, including work on the bullpen and dugouts. Hardie and his staff help maintain the field.
“We live right there,” Reed said of Tyson park. “You drive by, and if it’s over 50 degrees, there’s a game going on.”
The Parks Department recorded 4,235 players and 1,684 games in its 2017 youth sports programs, which included soccer, volleyball, softball, football, basketball, baseball and rugby.
The bond improvements would provide the city with enough fields to satisfy a baseball league of 70 teams, Mock said. The softball fields planned for Shaw park would allow three fields at Tyson to be converted to baseball. The new fields would be built as multi-use fields to accommodate varying rules of leagues, as well as provide a place for lacrosse and rugby, which are growing in popularity, Mock said.
Mock said the city hopes to increase tourism with more sports tournaments. The city hosted 38 tournaments last year in baseball, softball, soccer and disc golf, and keeps a waiting list for others. Money paid to use the parks goes into their upkeep, he said.
A report from the Spring-dale Chamber of Commerce shows 2,936 people came to town for the Midwest Showcase Shootout on April 7-9 last year. The report estimates their spending in the city at $17,214.
“And they get to see what Northwest Arkansas is all about,” Mock said.
Laurinda Joenks can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWALaurinda.
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