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New trail being built through War Memorial Park 

Pool skylight fix also debated.

Work on the Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center indoor pool, damaged by a fire in April, has paused as the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department and the FM Global insurance company work out whether to fix or replace the skylight, Parks Director Truman Tolefree said Monday. The skylight was "badly stained," Tolefree said, and chemical cleaning agents haven't worked. If the skylight cannot be cleaned, it may have to be removed and the pool area ceiling covered.

The sauna area by the indoor pool, where the fire originated, was completely destroyed. It is being rebuilt.

The women's locker rooms, which adjoin the pool, were reopened a couple of weeks ago, Tolefree said, after the shower area was repaired. Tolefree said damages should total around $300,000 to $350,000. He hopes the fitness center will be totally restored before the end of the summer. The outdoor pool was unaffected.

While work goes on at War Memorial Park facility, the park is also getting a new trail, an asphalt path a little more than a half-mile long from the Markham Street entrance to Interstate 630, roughly paralleling the pond and Coleman Creek.

Work started about three weeks ago on the $250,000 project, which was funded by a state appropriation. Completion is expected in mid-August. Tolefree said the War Memorial Stadium Commission helped parks get the appropriation.

Though the trail will loop back on itself for the time being, assistant Parks Director Mark Webre said he hoped the agency will eventually be able to connect the trail to Fair Park as it crosses the interstate to create a park entry point for the neighborhood south of I-630.

The trail is just part of the park's facelift, which started with the iron entrance gate and landscaping at Fair Park and Markham. A total of $500,000 from a portion of the city's 1-cent sales tax increase it has been collecting since 2012 will go to War Memorial improvements. The funds are coming from the 3/8ths portion of the penny increase dedicated to capital projects, and will be collected over 10 years, at $50,000 a year.

Some of that funding will go toward restoration of Coleman Creek, which runs through the park. The creek is now more like a ditch, running in a straight line from the pond spillway to I-630. The creek will be restored to its natural sinuous state, a form that will allow it to both handle more storm water runoff without bank erosion and improve its aquatic habitat.

The appropriation for the new trail includes money to create interpretive signs that explain the stream restoration process and purpose; they'll be erected after the stream work is complete, which could be several years off.

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