June 13, 2012 Edition

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Plans evolve to fund
WR swimming park

Pending approval of a resolution by the Walnut Ridge City Council at last night's meeting, plans have come together for funding an improved swimming park, to include a splash pad, at the present city pool, announced Mayor Don House.

If funding goes as planned, the next and larger project would be the renovation of the existing ballpark at Stewart Park, House said.

A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, June 21, at 6 p.m. at the Walnut Ridge Police Department complex to discuss funding.

Using the existing pool and pool area at Stewart Park, with expanded perimeters, a 40 X 50 feet splash pad would be added to create a swim park.

House said the splash pad has an estimated cost of $200,000, more or less depending on final specifications.

The splash pad would be fully-cushioned to prevent slippage or injuries. Features of the attraction would include upright water features, including liquid tunnels, water loops, geysers, ground mist, a liquid jail and an automatic activator.

The splash pad includes a recirculating water system. Modern shade structures, called Hypars, are also included in the plans.

House said the existing bathhouse would also be gutted and renovated at a cost of an additional $16,000.

50-50 grant to be matched locally

House said he has worked through the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department to get a grant to match local funds. State officials and engineers have made multiple visits to Walnut Ridge to give advice and make recommendations.

Besides the main public hearing, other hearings are scheduled over the next three weeks, he added.

A grant has been prepared by East Arkansas Planning and Development District to begin a funding program for the overall park development.

The 50-50 matching grants can be matched with some in-kind labor and materials and the rest by local cash donations. More than a year ago, House contacted Don and Fran Cavenaugh about making a major contribution to the city to make up the difference in matching the funding needs.

Since then, the Cavenaughs have worked with House, engineers and grant consultants to develop a plan to make the projects successful.

The Cavenaughs have agreed to donate a new 2012 Camaro automobile, valued at approximately $32,000, for the effort to match the grant. The Cavenaughs will deed the automobile to the the Kiwanis Club of Walnut Ridge, which has agreed to sell tickets, at a cost of $100 each, to the public for an opportunity to win the Camaro.

"The Cavenaughs are fully committed to investing in and in improving the quality of life for Walnut Ridge residents. However, they want to inspire community involvement, and therefore, other donations," House said.

Fran Cavenaugh told Kiwanis members that she and her husband see the projects as part of their efforts to help promote local tourism. The swimming park, as well as a renovated ballpark complex, has potential to draw more people to this area.

A maximum of 2,000 tickets will be sold for a chance to win the Camaro, and Kiwanis will receive five percent of their sales to use for club service projects.

House said a potential of $200,000 could be raised, and the car will be given away prior to Christmas. Plans call for the car to be widely advertised throughout Northeast Arkansas and to appear at numerous locations and events in order to boost ticket sales.

The swim park is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013. Any unused funds raised through the project could then be used to match a state grant to rebuild and modify the present ball park and soccer fields, House said.

The state has told local officials that a new grant can be applied for each year up to 10 years. "The ballpark reconstruction and modernization will be very expensive and will likely have to be completed in stages," House said.

"However, with the Cavenaugh funding, other donor participation, in-kind labor, donated materials and the state grants, modern game fields can be built without any tax upon residents," House said. "I cannot speak highly enough of Don and Fran Cavanaugh and their family in making this development plan come together."

L.J. Bryant, director of economic development for the Chamber of Commerce, said that the tax dollars generated from sales in local quick shops, restaurants, fast food establishments and other retail businesses in the city and county will show a marked increase as these developments are completed.

House said aspects of the development will require City Council approval as it is guided along. Much input from the community will be sought as stages of development take place.

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