Gateway Park on schedule for Fall opening, First National adds to its donation

by Tina Alvey Dale ( 1,051 views 

Artist rendering of the Gateway Park planned for downtown Fort Smith.

The multi-colored building that once housed AC Taylors Mobile Service Station where Rogers and Garrison Avenue converge has been demolished and foundation work has started on Gateway Park in downtown Fort Smith.

The project is on schedule for a late September/early October opening, said John McIntosh with 64.6 Downtown.

First National Bank of Fort Smith announced Thursday (July 18) it would double its original pledge to the park and donated $50,000 to 64.6 Downtown for the park’s development.

“When the park was first conceived, we pledged $25,000. That was when there was going to be one statue (of Judge Isaac Parker). Now that there are going to be three — three pillars of the history of Fort Smith, we wanted to make that donation $50,000,” said Sam T. Sicard, president and CEO of First National Bank.

A bronze statue of Parker will be the centerpiece of Gateway Park, which will be the triangle of land in eastern downtown Fort Smith created by the intersection of Rogers and Garrison Avenues. The sculpture will depict Parker seated in a chair reading a law book as he faces Washington D.C. The sculpture will sit on a four-foot stone pedestal and will stand just over seven feet tall, according to Kansas City artist Spencer Schubert, the artist designing the sculpture.

The sculpture of Parker will join two others – ones of John Carnall and Mother Superior Mary Teresa Farrell. Carnall, born in 1818, was an early leader in the Fort Smith Public School system, and Farrell, who arrived in Fort Smith in 1853, was instrumental in bringing healthcare to the region.

Organizers of the park wanted to depict three of the big components of Fort Smith’s history — law and order, education and healthcare — with the statues. The statue of Farrell will be on the church side of the park, while Carnall’s statue will be on the back. The park will also feature the United States and the Arkansas state flag. Cost for the statues will be about $342,000.

“Gateway Park is such a great project on a couple of levels. It honors the challenges and obstacles overcome by these remarkable people from our community,” Sicard said. “It is phenomenal that we can represent these people to community and to our visitors. … The park also will serve as an inspirational entrance to our downtown.”

The $750,000 project is a private/public partnership, with the park being built with private funds and the city covering the cost of sidewalks, street lights and moving a water line. The Gateway Park project will be managed by 64.6 Downtown, the group behind The Unexpected festival, Invest Fort Smith summit and other downtown promotions. They will initially own and develop the park, and then transfer ownership to the city.

McIntosh said though most of the funds have been raised to complete the project, they are still fundraising. He said he was confident the remaining funds could be raised in order to finish the project in time.