June 7, 2017 Edition

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Stewart Park to see
summer renovations

Aubree Hughart
TD Intern

Stewart Park recently received a 50-50 matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in order to make improvements to the park's playground. Other improvements at the park are also ongoing.

Mechelle Davis, chairperson of the local park committee, stated that the project cost is $20,000; $10,000 of which will be reimbursed with the grant assistance. Improvements are set to begin in mid-June, although some base work has already begun.

The Lawrence County School District donated a piece of playground equipment to the park, valued at $50,000, from the former Black Rock Elementary School. The first step of the project is to move and install the equipment, which is currently being stored at the city shop, to Stewart Park.

Summer improvements also include adding engineered wood fiber as a ground covering for safety purposes. Additionally, a shade covering will be installed over the main piece of existing playground equipment at the park.

"Not only will the covering provide shade," said Davis, "but it will also ensure that the metal doesn't get too hot in the summer for the children to play on, and it will provide sunburn protection."

In addition to the grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the city's tree committee received a $4,000 grant from the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Alderman Rob Combs, Tree City USA committee chairman, applied for the grant, which the city decided to give to the park committee in order to clear trees at the park. Walnut Ridge is designated as a Tree City USA for its efforts in urban forestry management. Tree City USA is affiliated with the Arbor Day Foundation.

Duckworth Tree Service won the bid process, and for the $4,000, the company was able to clear approximately 140 trees in the park that were dead, diseased or dying. They also pruned existing trees and ground down stumps.

Davis noted that the clearing of the trees is beneficial to the overall health of the park. "Clearing the dead and diseased trees will help thin out the canopy, enabling the park to dry out faster during flooding and enable mosquito spray to penetrate thoroughly throughout the park," said Davis.

Drainage work has also already begun at the park in order to improve and expand the drainage system and prevent the park from holding water and flooding.

Mayor Charles Snapp is optimistic about the improvements. "Stewart Park provides approximately 70 acres of enjoyment for residents of all ages, but there's so much more that can be done with the area," said Snapp. "To say the least, I'm excited about the efforts being put in to expanding what the park has to offer residents."

Looking to the future, the park committee has hired the Wynne-based landscape engineering firm Ecological Design Group in order to make a long-term plan for overall park improvement.

Additionally, the park committee is working with the outdoor sports program to start the local soccer program back up in the fall of 2017.

Snapp and the park committee are looking forward to meeting with the parents of those who participate in the summer outdoor sports program in the next month or two. "Hopefully we will provide insight to the participants on how the program is supposed to function," said Snapp. "By working together, the programs can be improved."

Park committee chairperson Mechelle Davis invites anyone with comments about the park or suggestions on improvements to contact the committee via the Stewart Park Facebook page.

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