Riverfront Drive Park/Skate Park leads the pack for 2018 spending out of Fort Smith’s 1/8-cent sales and use tax approved by voters in 2012 for the purpose of capital improvements to the city’s parks system.
The department has budgeted $500,000 toward the project, which will open around Memorial Day of 2018. The money will go toward needed infrastructure such as parking lot and restrooms. The land purchase from the United States Marshals Museum (USMM) totaled approximately $200,000 and is to be included in the final 2017 budget. The museum has relocated to adjacent property and will open on Sept. 24, 2019.
The new park is based on a design from Kanab, Utah, and it will feature a small track for strider bikes and children still on training wheels. There will be intermediate and advanced tracks for teens and experienced riders as well.
“This will be a true park, where there is not just one thing to do but multiple things, to hopefully maximize usage and appeal,” said First National Bank of Fort Smith President and CEO Sam Sicard in a previous interview with Talk Business & Politics.
He said he was not aware of a combination bike and skate park like this one in the region.
“There are some separate trails in Northwest Arkansas, but nothing that combines the two. It will also tie in with the Greg Smith Riverfront Trail so you can connect to that if you want. There are just a lot of different opportunities there for tourists and locals to come downtown, stay downtown, eat downtown, and go to the Marshals Museum (when it opens).”
Sicard, through First National, committed $100,000 of a $600,000 private funding goal toward the public-private partnership.
THE YEAR AHEAD
As for the rest of capital improvements spending in 2018, which is estimated at a total of $2.489 million, the city has set aside $1.1 million to continue development of its trails and greenways program at locations throughout the city.
An additional $200,000 of the overall will go toward Fort Smith Park Playground improvements to ensure the park is designed to be inclusive of special needs children. The department has earmarked $100,000 for such inclusion improvements at other parks throughout the city starting in 2019 – not included in the $2.489 million estimate. The 2018 improvements are expected to be finished sometime in the fall of 2018.
Also before the end of the year, the department will spend $200,000 each on splash pad conversions for the wading pools at Tilles and Woodlawn Parks. The department decided on splash pads after allowing students at nearby schools to participate in a “Dotmocracy” to vote on whether to go splash pad or keep the pools as-is. The majority of students voted in favor of conversion.
Rounding out the top five, the Creekmore Park parking lot resurfacing is expected to cost the department around $100,000 and finish sometime in the summer.
The department also plans to spend a combined total of $139,000 on three separate pieces of equipment (mini excavator, mower, 4-by-4 crew cab one-ton with dump bed) and $50,000 on Fort Smith Dog Park, which will be located in the northwest corner of Fort Smith Park and is expected to open in the fall. Fort Smith’s Park Partners nonprofit has committed an additional $10,250 for the project in addition to the city’s share.
The 1/8-cent sales and use tax for the Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Department’s capital improvements program will be up for renewal in 2022. For 2018, the city expects it to raise $2.876 million.