FAYETTEVILLE — The city wants to keep Lewis Fields open for a year while administrators and School District officials work out a deal to possibly buy the park from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The property is next to Asbell Elementary School on North Sang Avenue and has been the focus of a resident-led campaign and social media effort since late last year.
The city leased the property from the Division of Agriculture from 2003 until the agreement expired June 30. A new lease the City Council will consider Aug. 7 would pick up the deal as of July 1, and continue it to June 30, 2019.
The School District has expressed an interest in partnering with the city to keep the land open to the public, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said in a news release Friday. Many details are yet to be explored, he said.
The university system’s board decided late last year to put the 27-acres on the market for its appraised $4.1 million value. The Division of Agriculture, which owns the land, would handle a potential sale.
Jean-Francois Meullenet, director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station for the Division of Agriculture, said the lease extension will enable the division, city and School District to work on a solution for the property.
“This is a good step forward and we appreciate the efforts being made on all sides of this negotiation,” he said.
A provision of the lease includes a 60-day cancellation clause in case the division needs to respond to a purchase offer, according to city documents. The city will hold the first right of refusal, meaning it would have 15 days after any offer from a third party to make a counter offer or let it go. The city also wants its own appraisal.
The ultimate plan is to get Lewis on the list of projects for a bond renewal vote next year, according to city documents.
Will Dockery, a resident who spearheaded the Save Lewis Park campaign, said he hopes the new deal will lead to a permanent solution. That area of town needs green space, and the effort will continue until the land is preserved, he said.
“This is not over, even though it may feel like we can see the finish line now,” Dockery said. “I know it’s still quite a ways away from actually securing it completely.”
Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @stacyryburn.
The City Council will have on its agenda the lease with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture for Lewis Fields.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 7 WHERE: Room 219, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.