Favorite

Trading spaces 

Park, quarry swap considered again.

GLORIA SPRINGER: Wants community benefit.
  • GLORIA SPRINGER: Wants community benefit.


A proposed land swap involving Gillam Park and Granite Mountain Quarries is back on the table, and the city Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from the public at a meeting Monday, Nov. 13, at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, 5100 Frazier Pike. Supporters of the swap — including Audubon Arkansas, which supports the swap with a few reservations — say the trade will help preserve and expand one of the most pristine hardwood forests left in the state.

Some nearby residents, however, are concerned the trade will bring quarry boundaries, and blasting, closer to their homes, and at least one neighborhood activist wonders why the deal can’t be turned into a source of revenue through the leasing of mineral rights, with the funds plowed back into the largely defunct park’s crumbling facilities.

Audubon Arkansas signed a 99-year lease with the city in December 2005 on the 400 or so acres that Gillam Park encompasses, and plans to build a $5 million nature center on the site. Director Ken Smith was emphatic: If the city approves the swap, the new border must hold. Audubon will not be interested in investing into park development if there’s no guarantee that its land won’t shrink further.

Granite Mountain Quarries, headed up by Haskell Dickinson, has slowly advanced north, eating up Gillam Park land in the past.

However, Smith said, if Parks and Dickinson can clear up some long-standing problems concerning property lines and how the land would be used, a land trade would accomplish a number of goals.

The quarry company proposes to give the city a 130-acre L-shaped piece of property that intrudes into the park from the north in exchange for parcels west of Interstate 530 and along the southern edge of the park, a total of about 100 acres. The park’s borders would be squared off, allowing for easier — and “desperately needed” — management such as controlled burns, and eliminating the possibility of business or residential development jutting into the park.

Most importantly, Smith said, the trade would involve handing over land that is not as ecologically valuable as land the city will receive.

“The property that the quarry is wanting, while probably rich in rock value, is less valuable ecologically,” Smith said. “... The forests [and] the glades aren’t nearly as pristine as those in the land we hope to get.”

The issues that stopped a land swap in the past, Smith said, were questions of where the property line would run and how the land could be used.

“The line went too far into the good stuff, the stuff we wanted to protect,” he said. “Plus, the landowner had proposed a series of conditions on the city and on Audubon that we couldn’t agree to, such as you couldn’t do anything on your side of the line for a buffer of 200 feet. That’s a problem.”

If those problems can be rectified, Audubon would support the swap.

Parks director Truman Tolefree said the department is officially neutral on the swap now. After the hearing, he said, he will be better able to make a recommendation to the city board. “We want to hear from everybody,” he said.

One of the people Tolefree is sure to hear from come Nov. 13 is Gloria Springer. A member of the famous clan who helped settle and develop the area, Springer lives just outside the gates of Gillam Park, in the Homes at Granite Mountain apartment complex. While some Granite Mountain residents fear that a swap will bring blasting closer to their homes — several of which, they claim, have already been damaged — Springer doesn’t necessarily oppose the trade. She does think it could be handled in a way that would profit the city and help revitalize Gillam Park, however.

“Like we talk about in our [community] meetings, why wouldn’t they lease the land to get some kind of return on it for Parks or for Little Rock?” Springer said.

Springer said that money from a lease could be used to help restore and expand the facilities at Gillam Park, including the cracked and unusable swimming pool. The only restrooms in the park were in a building attached to the pool, and those are similarly unusable. For now, a green portable toilet stands at the edge of a parking lot, used mostly by Audubon volunteers.

“There’s only one big pavilion in there, and that’s going to go to Audubon,” Springer said. “We want one. We’d like a pavilion for when we have our family reunions and such. We could come back on our side of town and have those.”

Ken Smith said that while repairing swimming pools and building pavilions is not within the ability or mission of Audubon Arkansas, the land swap would benefit Gillam Park and the community by helping to attract more visitors there. As the number of visitors grows, Smith said, businesses will move in to serve them, and Little Rock will have to restore amenities and services to Gillam Park. His vision for the area, he said, is to have a nice place where families can gather, including new or restored restrooms, playground equipment, and meeting areas. He said Audubon is willing to work with the community and the city to see that vision accomplished.

“We have a desire to bring the whole park back,” Smith said. “We’re coming in there to make an investment of hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of dollars into the community. That will certainly attract new housing, and will bring people and investment from all over Little Rock.”


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by David Koon

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Trump proposes an unconstitutional ban on flag burning, revoking citizenship

    Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, this morning made a public statement, via Twitter, that the flag burning should be disallowed by law: "there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

    • Thank you, Ruth! Thank you.

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Art in America

    • I have being hearing about this blank ATM card for a while and i never…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Asa and Trump

    • I have being hearing about this blank ATM card for a while and i never…

    • on December 2, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation