Park on the River in Maumelle sparks debate

Maumelle City Council hosts tour, mulls contract renewal

Jess Holt, a Maumelle City Council Member, walks through a park facility building on Crystal Hill Road in Maymelle during an open tour of the building on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Jess Holt, a Maumelle City Council Member, walks through a park facility building on Crystal Hill Road in Maymelle during an open tour of the building on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)


The Maumelle City Council is debating what to do with a park and facility located near the Arkansas River, with one council member calling its current use a "financial travesty."

The property, also known as "Park on the River" is located at 11903 Crystal Hill Road in Maumelle.

Most recently, the council last week hosted a public tour from 1-2 p.m., inviting residents to view the property and share their thoughts about what to make of the area.

During the hourlong tour, approximately 20 people made their way through and around the property, including three of Maumelle's council members.

Park on the River offers the city's only entrance to the Arkansas River.

Other public amenities at the location include the dock and an open park area.

Those looking to visit the area are met with a narrow entrance just to the right, off Crystal Hill Road.

Upon turning right, a single path stretches straight before a curve to the left meets a parking lot to the right and the facility to the left. Just to the left of the building is a pond surrounded by greenery.

The single-path continues between the parking lot and the facility, leading visitors down toward the boat ramp and park area.

According to the March 6 council meeting, the property was initially purchased by the city sometime between 2003 and 2004.

Beginning in 2006, the city approved a contract with Team Summit LLC/Timmons Arts Foundation.

The approved contract established a shared revenue contract between the city and Summit/Timmons.

Council Member Steve Mosley said it is not clear how long the contract remained in place after 2006, but that it was renewed in 2015.

The approved 2015 contract allotted Summit/Timmons another five years to continue leasing the facility on the property for weddings and events.

Under the agreed contract, Summit and Timmons agreed to pay the city $1,000 a month and 25% of the net revenue -- which includes all expenses incurred, including the rent, "of all venue rental sold by Timmons at the property."

The contract was signed and approved to expire in November of 2020, allowing the city to renew it or to decide how to use the property going forward.

According to Mosley, the council was not aware the contract had expired in 2020 until recently when they were doing their budget process.

In the March 6 council meeting, Gloria Timmons, of Summit/Timmons, told the council she would like to renew the contract for another two years, under the same rate.

"I don't ask for much, but I'm asking for this," Timmons said. "I don't know what's going to happen in two years. I'd like us to go from there and open this discussion again later. If you remember, I asked to buy [the property] back then, but the council said no because it's a park. Realistically, I would love to own it, but I don't think you should sell it. Keep in mind, I've invested about $30,000 in renovations."

Council Member Christine Gronwald also shared her thoughts on the property in the March meeting.

"I see it as a partnership and it should be something that attracts people to Maumelle," Gronwald said. "I think it's a grossly under-used property ... the council and city should do more to promote it. With this partnership, we could better support Team Summit."

Following questions from Mosley, Timmons said in a "good year" renting the facility out, they hosted an estimated 20 events.

Timmons added that in the approximately 20 events, many of them were non-paid events hosted by city staff or organizations.

Council Member Jess Holt opposed the idea of renewing the contract and toured the property Wednesday.

"Forgive my hostility with this, but we have not accomplished anything with this," Holt said. "To me, this is a financial travesty. Let's not leap until we do a careful study as to what the potential is for this piece of property."

Mayor Caleb Norris reiterated that the conversation seems to be if not a partnership with Timmons, then what. He added that the options range from renewing it or doing something completely different with the facility and land.

Maumelle's Director of Community and Economic Development Courtney Dunn also took to the podium in the meeting to share her ideas for what the space could be used for.

Dunn said the council could consider using the space for a visitor center, a Maumelle merchandise shop, Maumelle history, other park amenities and more. She also said the council should keep in mind that the park is located along the upcoming Greenways Trail and that they should plan to utilize that traffic and use the existing space effectively with that in mind.

Developers and current Park on the River staff have said the facility in its current state can only support certain ideas or projects.

Mosley suggested that the area be used for a restaurant off of the river, but was later informed that the septic capacity could not handle that currently.

At this time, no decision has been made related to the contract renewal or further development of the area.

Council Member R.J. Mazzoni said he's not as opposed as Holt, but does have concerns with renewing a contract immediately.

"I think it's time to question if this is the best use," Mazzoni said. "We should look and see what options are out there."


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