February 27, 2013 Edition

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WR obtains grant for water park,
ballpark improvements announced

John Bland

The city of Walnut Ridge made two announcements Thursday regarding plans for improvements at Stewart Park. Mayor Don House announced that the city has received approval for a $125,000 grant to create a water park by upgrading the existing city pool and adding a splash pad.

It was also announced that Don and Fran Cavenaugh have donated three new remote-controlled scoreboards, as well as the cost of installation, for the Stewart Park ball fields. A fourth new scoreboard will be added through a partnership with the Walnut Ridge School campus and Sunrise 7up Distributing of Paragould.

The new scoreboards should be in place by April 1.

Mayor House said he did not have a definite completion date for the splash pad and swimming pool upgrade. Officials from Parks and Tourism will be here in March to establish a construction schedule for the water park.

The Arkansas Parks and Tourism Outdoor Grant Program approved the $125,000 grant for the water park. The grant money must be matched 50-50.

Mayor House and the city worked closely with the Cavenaughs, who donated a $32,000 Camaro through Cavenaugh Auto Group to the Kiwanis Club. Members of Kiwanis then sold $100 tickets to the public for a chance to win the vehicle.

Kiwanis will be donating money raised through the ticket sales to help match the grant. Mayor House said in-kind labor by city employees will also be used help to match the grant. Ross Allen with the East Arkansas Planning and Development District is the grant administrator.

"The park is an important project to get passionate about," said Mayor House, who added that he hopes to engage business leaders and the overall community in supporting the park improvements.

Stewart Park consists of 110 acres, and the ballpark is well over 40 years old. Through the years, minimal upgrades and additions to the ballpark have been made, but now it is time to do more, said House.

"We have come to the point that we must do something better to have a viable ballpark," House said.

At Thursday's announcement, Don and Fran Cavenaugh shared their reasons for wanting to help with the park projects.

"This is our hometown," said Fran. "We made the decision that if we have the ability, it is our privilege, our duty, to help our community and promote involvement to make our hometown better for everyone."

"I want to help Lawrence County as much as I can," said Don Cavenaugh.

"This (park) serves more than just the community of Walnut Ridge," House added.

Rob Combs, an alderman, said, "We really appreciate the Cavenaughs for their donations." Families will especially benefit from the park and swimming pool improvements, he added.

Charles Spargo, park superintendent, said that good park facilities will draw people from other towns to this community, and those people will spend money here.

House noted that Spargo and his park crew have done a lot of repairs, painting and tree trimming at the park. The Arkansas Forestry Service has assisted them and supplied new trees for planting.

Keith Brand, ball program chairman, said to the Cavenaughs, "On behalf of the baseball committee and the park committee, we are very appreciative of the help you've given us." Some 400 or more children and youth participate in the summer ball programs, not to mention fall soccer, he added.

L.J. Bryant, economic development director for the Chamber of Commerce, noted that the park and pool improvements are vital to the quality of life here. "We need to attract folks, not only to work here, but to live here," he said.

"We're making progress," House said. "I appreciate the help of Sen. (Robert) Thompson and Rep. (James) Ratliff for writing letters and giving their endorsement to the project," he concluded.

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