August 11, 2010 Edition

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WR City Council discusses
parking, possible golf course

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council held a special meeting on Aug. 3 to discuss parking areas for Stewart Park and the possibility of building a municipal golf course near the former Walnut Ridge Country Club building.

Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin discussed the need for more parking space at the park, as well as safety issues for children crossing Second Street during ball games and other events.

"We've already added one parking lot, but we need another one," Wallin said. "We need to get it started now so we'll have it ready for next season."

The space for the new parking area is in front of the baseball field and may have some drainage problems to correct before asphalt is poured.

The council voted to hire Hickman Excavating of Imboden to remove sod and soil from the area in preparation for the gravel that will be needed beneath the asphalt.

Wallin also said he would like to apply for a grant to help pay for the asphalt.

The council briefly discussed sports complexes in other towns, and agreed they need to learn how those towns paid for their facilities.

Council members discussed that sports tournaments bring a lot of people into town, people who eat and buy gas and other things. Unlike actual sports complexes in the area, Stewart Park doesn't have the facilities needed for adult tournaments, according to alderman Dirk Davis.

Due to the closure of the Walnut Ridge Golf Club's by court order, the council discussed building a course that will not interfere with the airport's safety zones now or in the future. The country club has reorganized but does not plan to build a golf course.

Wallin and Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins presented two tentative plans for a municipal course, both of which would allow the city to use portions of the former course.

Mayor Michelle Rogers told the council that the first thing they need to decide is whether or not they want to build a golf course. At last month's regular meeting she said if the city builds a course, it would not be a money- making endeavor. It would be built as a service for the community's benefit.

The city would be eligible for grants that a private club cannot receive. "The Arkansas Department of Parks and Recreation might be able to help us with 50/50 grants and in-kind grants," Rogers said.

"In order to get something ready for next year, using parts of the existing course would be quicker and less expensive to build," Wallin said. "The first thing we have to do is get a plan for a course that will fit in the land that we have available. We may have to shorten a couple of par-4 holes to par-3s."

With many things to address about building a course, the immediate concern is watering the grass on the portions of the course they might be able to use, and moving the grass currently in the airport safety zones and placing it where it could be kept for future use. Saving the grass would save the cost of seeding or sprigging the new areas.

"We will have to work with the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission, and their engineer would have to adopt the new course into the airport's plan," Wallin said.

"Greg Gill has stepped up and cleared the safety zones, using his equipment and employees," Wallin added. "He and others have offered to help us. We need to put together a community effort to accomplish this goal."

The council passed a resolution to preserve and protect the assets (especially watering) at the former course, and agreed to come up with more concrete facts, figures and more precise layout plans at their regular meeting on Aug. 10.

All members were in agreement that they need to be sure any course they might build would be located in an area that would never interfere with the airport.

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