The mayor and the park | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 5, 2008

The mayor and the park

Posted By on Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 1:29 PM

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Mayor Mark Stodola. Give him credit. He fires back.

Re some dismissive remarks here about fairly small-bore plans for War Memorial Park after what seems like a decade of study, he has responded.

On the jump:

1) his note.

2) a list and explanation of planned improvements to be financed with proceeds from bond refinancing.

NOTE FROM MAYOR STODOLA

sometimes I wonder whether you have ever said a positive thing about the city or City Hall.  I don’t recall that you have, perhaps you can refresh my memory. In any event I want to make sure that you and your bloggers have ALL the information concerning the issues surrounding changes and improvements to War Memorial Park.

First: MONEY.  Without an increase in revenues, nothing can be done by way of improvements to WMP. By refinancing a 10 yr. old bond issue we can squeeze out a little new money for capital improvements to our park system. In other words rather than do nothing for the remaining 15 years of the current bond issue, by paying the same amount of money, we can do a refinance and begin a process of change and improvements. While you and others might choose to spend all the money in WMP, others have different opinions and equally compelling park needs. Bottom line, I need 6 votes from the Board of Directors to do the refinance or we get nothing and do nothing until more revenues are received. Since the City is frequently and roundly criticized for moving too slowly or doing nothing, I personally intend to push the ball forward and get SOMETHING done.

As for those who want to keep Ray Winder Field, the city is currently without maintenance and operation funds to keep it maintained. For those who want to tear it down and find other uses for the property, I need at least $500,000 for demolition. Add to that that we only own half of the land upon which it sits, thus the future use becomes even more complex. If my choice is spend the money for improvements vs. demolition, I am going to pick improvements. You can rest assured the issue is not just sitting on idle. Various proposals are being drafted and doses of reality are being swallowed. I have talked with the LRSD’s Athletic director directly who has advised me that depending on the condition of RWF they would consider renting it for a couple of games each year in the $150 range, but that their priority is the city’s ball field at Kanis Park. Not any maintenance money there, and UALR is committed to Curran-Conway Field.

As for those who want to do away with WMP golf course, I don’t believe anything should be done until we know what the golf course will be replaced with and that we have the money to implement these changes, and all  after the public and the Board of Directors weighs in on its future.  The estimates from the consultant have been suggested to cost $20 million dollars, although no one has identified what this will purchase. Bottom line: it would be stupid to do anything other than to continue to play golf on this portion of the park at this time. Since the improvements suggested are considered a first phase, the debate on the use of the golf course will continue. One thing we do know is that the Stadium Commission has leases for parking on the course through 2016. Whatever happens in the future will need to take that into consideration.

Second: IMPROVEMENTS. Attached to this email is a diagram and narrative of the suggested improvements to WMP. There are 7 new functions being added, in addition to streetscape improvements, which are designed to bring more people into the park and make it more user friendly. These improvements have been suggested by the Parks Department of the city and have been endorsed by the Parks and Recreation Commission and the WMP Implementation Committee. They include 2 new open playing fields, a water park feature, opening up the snake infested Coleman Creek Lake and improving the creek banks, development of a one mile pedestrian trail and a walking track around WM Stadium adjacent to the fitness center. The area affected is approximately 22 acres on the west side of Fairpark Blvd. As for tennis, those functions will be moved one mile down the road to the Rebsamen Tennis Center, which will be rehabilitated. At one time this tennis center was one of the finest facilities in the South. Likewise, we will find a place for archery enthusiasts; sound like a good use out at the Section 13 Park which is seeing little use presently.

So there you have it. We will begin the first phase of change to the park. We will spend $1.225 million dollars on it. We have an opportunity to take action or do nothing.

BOND REFINANCING AUGUST 2008

Zoo Improvements and AZA Accreditation
Proposed improvements……………………
 Master Plan needs financing to implement further improvements
 Association of Zoos and Aquariums requires continual upgrades and improvements to maintain accreditation
War Memorial Park – Existing Water Features
Problems/weaknesses………………
 Stream and ponds edge are unsightly
 Edges are eroding and overgrown with undesirable plants
 Some areas have poor access
War Memorial Park – Examples of clean edges and water features
Proposed improvements……………..
 Provide attractive structures as focal points
 Stabilize water edges with stones and attractive plants
 Improve access and interaction with water
War Memorial Park – Existing Markham Street edge feature
Problems/weaknesses…………………..
 Signage is unsightly
 Edge needs more definition on both sides of Fair Park Blvd.
 Walkway needs to be more accessible and accommodating
War Memorial Park – Existing Fair Park Entrance
Problems/weaknesses………………..
 Poorly defined entrance with no sense of entry and arrival
 Unsightly utility lines
Proposed improvements for edge and entrances………………
 Upgrade and update signage
 Extend definition of edge along Markham
 Improve access and accommodation by widening walkway and providing pedestrian amenities (shading and seating)
 Provide architectural elements to create vertical forms defining entrance
 Provide arch identifying place
War Memorial Park – Stadium Walking Track
Proposed acquisition…………………….
 Users have no clearly defined area to walk and exercise
Proposed improvements……………………
 Work with Stadium Commission to define a walking path around stadium (2.5 laps=one mile)
War Memorial Park – Walker Tennis Center
Problems/weaknesses…………………….
 Tennis center and east parking lot take up significant locations and space for small user population
Proposed improvements……………………
 Relocate Walker Tennis Center program to Rebsamen Tennis Center and create large open space
 Open space can provide more recreational and leisure pursuits for larger user populations
War Memorial Park – Archery Range Area
Problems/weaknesses…………………….
 Large parking area and archery program take up another significant location and space for small user population
Proposed improvements……………………
 Remove majority of parking area and relocate archery program and provide phase one improvements of a water park and open play area
Rebsamen Tennis Center Complex
Problems/weaknesses…………………….
 Building and tennis courts are over 25 years old and showing deterioration
 Lost St. Vincent’s Tennis Tournament to better conditioned tennis complex
Proposed improvements……………………
 Rebuild tennis court surfaces
 Upgrade exterior and interior components of tennis club house 

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