Park controversy UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Park controversy UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 6:47 AM

Coming soon: An outcry over the city of Little Rock's plans to reconfigure the War Memorial Golf Course and remove tennis courts as part of a plan to build a new "entrance" to the park.

The golfers touch on the plan in this blog. They'll be out in force at the City Board meeting next week (6 p.m. Tuesday; they'll sign up for public comment period). One objection is that the major changes at the golf course come with little advance notice and public discussion. There has, of course, been much discussion about War Memorial over the last several years, But, inevitably, the city leaves the impression, fair or not, that the talk is mostly for show and that a few unseen hands control the park, whether it be for the new cancer monument, the trashing of golf holes and tennis courts or what to do about Ray Winder Field (a moldering mess, still). Me, I just wish they'd find a way to reopen the gym on Sunday.

UPDATE: Duffers can argue all they want. Signs went up today saying work would begin on the golf course Monday. Six holes will be closed while the work is underway. Any remarks to the Board Tuesday will be wasted breath. Nice move, city.

UPDATE: Deputy City Manager Bryan Day explains the city's reasoning:

I know that you are hearing from a few folks concerned about proposed changes to War Memorial Golf Course and Park.  I am sure there will be a lot of editorializing and personal views; however, I want to share some facts with you.
The upcoming changes to War Memorial Golf Course and the park have resulted  from numerous recommendations over the years from a golf course consultant, planning professionals, citizens and the Parks Commission.  The foundation for these recommendations is that this park currently has limited recreational opportunities and  because of its central location, it should be better designed to meet the needs of the entire community, not just a few user groups. 
Many golfers and city staff have long recognized that the existing golf course was constructed at a time  before the widening of roads and development of the adjacent areas; this growth has created several awkward configurations on the course and caused safety concerns for golfers and vehicles.  In 1999, Ault-Clark Associates, a nationally recognized golf architectural firm, recommended an entirely new golf course layout which relocated the three holes east of Fair Park Boulevard and internally relocated holes that were unsafe for vehicles traveling adjacent to the course.  Up until now, funds have not been available to address these recommendations. 
Throughout 2003, 2004 and 2005, the Parks Commission and area stakeholders held regular meetings to discuss ways to make  War Memorial Park more accessible to a larger audience.  The City then appointed a citizen task force to work with City staff and H-3 Studios to recommend improvements to War Memorial Park.   A series of three public meetings and frequent stakeholder meetings were held to gather feedback and hundreds of citizens participated.
The proposed plans provide for the relocation and reconfiguration of hole 17 away from Fair Park Boulevard.  This allows for a greater degree of safety for golfers, park patrons and vehicular traffic moving along Markham and Fair Park. The tee box on hole number 13 is being moved slightly to allow for improved safety of the  playground area. No other changes are planned for the golf course. The number of holes have not been reduced, strokes have not been reduced and the course continues to be a par 65.  City staff has worked diligently to provide the best scenario for the greatest number of people and user groups. 
Staff recently presented these plans to the War Memorial Golf Association and there were about a  dozen or so in attendance who indicated their support for the proposed golf course improvements.  
As for the tennis courts, the plan calls for building two new courts adjacent to the fitness center and removing those at Markham and Fairpark to create a more open, park-like environment and allow for greater diversity in the use of the park.  Staff is making improvements to the Rebsamen Tennis Center, which is less than two miles away and has a greater offering and better facilities than what currently exist at War Memorial. In the end, tennis will still be available at War Memorial Park and our citizens will have opportunities to play at the Rebsamen Tennis Center as well.

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