The Riverfront Drive Skate and Bike Park slated to open by Memorial Day will have to wait another two weeks, according to Bobby Aldridge of Frontier Engineering, Inc.
Aldridge, the lead engineer on the public-private partnership with the city of Fort Smith, provided an update to commissioners at a Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Wednesday (Sept. 12). During the meeting, commissioners also reelected Casey Millspaugh as chairman, but not without opposition.
Concerning the park, Aldridge told commissioners the skate portion was finished and he expected the bike portion to be ready “two weeks from this Friday (Sept. 28),” which, Aldridge said, will be the park’s “soft open, weather permitting.” 64.6 Downtown is organizing a grand opening event for October, but a date has yet to be confirmed.
Frank Sharum of Sharums Landscape & Design did the landscaping on the project and will be providing an additional $20,000 worth of trees beyond the initial scope. This will result in additional irrigation needs that will be funded by the private sector, Aldridge said.
The project, according to earlier comments by Parks and Recreation Director Doug Reinert, ran into an early roadblock with a sinkhole. “They had to dig out some concrete and redo that, and they’ve run into some minor things like that — debris from a tornado.” Reinert said in June the park was on track for completion “sometime in September.”
In February, the city approved a $600,000 contract to be paid through private funds with American Ramp Company for construction of the park and its contents. The park is part of a public-private partnership with various private interests that include but aren’t limited to Steve Clark of Propak Logistics, Sam Sicard of First National Bank of Fort Smith, and Bill Hanna of Hanna Oil & Gas. An undisclosed portion of the contract amount comes from the Walton Family Foundation as well. Sicard — through FNB — was the initial contributor and the only one to disclose the amount ($100,000, made public on Oct. 13, 2017).
Also in February, the city approved a contract for its share of the park with Silco Construction in the amount of $466,511. That money went toward construction of the parking area and amenities improvements, and they were paid out of the voter-approved 1/8-cent sales and use tax. American Ramp’s design is based on their work at K-Town Plaza in Kanab, Utah. The park 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.
Also Wednesday, Millspaugh received a near-unanimous vote to reclaim his post as the commission chairman, but there was one holdout. Commissioner Chris Raible of Arvest Bank voted against. Raible told Talk Business & Politics afterward it was “nothing personal” against Millspaugh.
“We’re friends.” However, “I just feel with what has happened before with the violation of the city ordinance, that the chairman should be held to a higher standard, and as I told Casey, it’s absolutely nothing personal, but it’s just a principle thing with me.”
Raible was referring to Millspaugh’s removal from the commission in August for three consecutive unexcused absences. Millspaugh was restored to the commission following an Aug. 21 executive session of the city’s Board of Directors.