story by Kim Souza
Good things come to those who wait, so the saying goes, and Springdale is ready to collect, unveiling a $2 million trail and plaza project that will be a centerpiece on the Razorback Greenway that stretches through Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas.
It’s been five years in the making and not nearly fast enough for longtime civic leader Walter Turnbow, who on Friday (May 23) and at 90-years-old, sat in the driver’s seat of the front loader that destroyed a small segment of the building that will soon be home to the plaza and park trail head named in his honor. More than 300 gathered downtown for the demolition and unveiling of the plaza and trail head renderings.
Mayor Doug Sprouse said Turnbow Plaza will be completed later this year. The plaza, which is phase 1A of the project, will overlook Spring Creek which is being uncovered so it will run through the middle of the trail head between Emma Avenue and Center Street.
Civic leaders with the Springdale Business Alliance said Turnbow was the catalyst in this project, with his pushing and prodding focused on making something happen because he wanted to live to see it.
The Care Foundation, which Turnbow has been a director since inception, gave $493,000 toward building the park/plaza in his name. Springdale-based Tyson Foods contributed $100,000 toward the demolition of the building where the plaza will be located.
“I am never at a loss for worlds, but today I am overwhelmed. Just know I will be raising cane if you slow down,” Turnbow said.
Chris Weiser of Springdale heads up the trail commission for the city. He said five years ago there was disappointment and no hope that Springdale would ever catch up to its municipal neighbors in building its portion of the Razorback Greenway. He and Sprouse said the Walton Family Foundation and their vision for the Razorback Greenway helped breathe new life with $10 million in matching funds.
“We have been way behind our neighboring cities, two of which have a prepared food tax to help fund their parks and trails. That is something we are strongly considering in Springdale, because more money is needed. The city has earmarked $500,000 of the funds we get from the half-cent sales tax, and if we can get a match for that, the money will go further,” Sprouse said.
The Pride of Springdale Trail will connect downtown to Har-Ber High School and the Jones Center. There are also trail connections to Greenway being made near Lake Springdale and Hunt Park.
Ed Clifford, CEO of the Jones Trust, said the new plaza and trail head downtown will bring more “feet to the street.” He said the unearthing of Spring Creek so it flows through downtown will be a draw for small shops, bistros, pubs and other businesses.
Linda Wray, of Tyson Foods, said it’s still early, but the company has plans to refurbish its original corporate building on East Emma Avenue and move some of its corporate staff to the downtown location. Tyson said it wants to help with a downtown presence and if one comes others will likely follow.