Newly appointed Parks & Recreation commissioner Rachel Brix brought good tidings to the most recent meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission in regard to plans for a new dog park in the city.
"A group of citizens interested in having a dog park met last Wednesday at the Carnegie Library annex," Brix said. "A dozen people turned out all told, which was good. Everyone there concluded Harmon Park is probably the best location for the park, although an alternative location was suggested, out by the city cemetery."
Brix said most attending felt Harmon Park was more convenient than other locations and would be used more often.
She said they also discussed topics such as whether fees should be charged -- "A lot of people suggested setting up a donation box," she said -- though most of the meeting was devoted to location.
Another topic was whether and how much to follow the city's rules and regulations on pets. "We could follow the city code on requiring licenses," Brix said, "but few people actually have them for their dogs. But I thought at least we ought to ask people that their pets be vaccinated if they want to use the park. Which brings up the question of how we would police that."
Brix said fencing for the park would cost ca. $6,000-8,000 sans installation. "That would assume volunteers willing to put the fencing in," she said.
Parks & Rec Director Bruce Levine, who has been working with Brix on the project, suggested the commission "needed to make a show of solidarity and try to raise funding on their own" before going to the city with requests for money.
Brix said Public Works would be able to help with some minor grading to facilitate "folks walking around" the area.
Maintaining the park, Brix said, could be carried by volunteers. "There isn't a lot of grass there," she said. "Maybe an occasional raking, picking up trash once a week."
Brix encouraged people planning to attend the next meeting of the group on Sept. 26 at 6:30 at the Library Annex to bring as many people as possible. "We can't make a dog park with 10 people," she said. "Bring a list of folks you think might want to participate or donate something."
She floated the idea of different fundraising ideas that might aid the project. "Maybe some of them will be time sensitive," she said, "for example a Halloween contest or photos with Santa. At the next meeting we'll go down to Harmon Park to walk the area. Once we actually get people down there to see it, they will certainly get more motivated."
Levine said there had been some interest in the alternate location by the city cemetery on Hwy 62 East. "The property is owned by the cemetery but because of bedrock is unusable for the normal purposes," he said. "We went out with Tom Reynolds, who is a custodian there, and he seemed to be pretty excited about our using that location. It's flat, with some trees and some open area, and it has its own entrance. It's really a viable alternative to Harmon. I think it's possible it was ruled out at the first meeting because Harmon is within walking distance of the people who came to that meeting. But not necessarily for the rest of the community."
Commissioner Stephen Foster asked what would preclude two separate parks being established.
"Money," said Chairman Bill Featherstone.
Arborist Christopher Fisher brought commissioners up to date on work toward an Arkansas Forestry Grant for restoring Cardinal Spring in Harmon Park. "Bruce [Levine] and I did some rough cleanup of the site recently," he said. "We cut down and stacked a lot of fallen tree debris that had been laying around awhile."
Fisher said the work revealed the actual contours of the site and elevations and can now be walked without going through brush. "Stephen [Foster] and I did a cursory plant inventory and noted many species," he said. He suggested the inventory continue as the project moves along.
Fisher said the area had been visited recently by Arkansas Game & Fish's Non-Game Aquatic biologist Brian Wagner, as well as Region 1 Stream Team Coordinator Dale Evans to address a concern over preserving the habitat of the Williams Crayfish.
Wagner will collect and send to the lab specimens of the crayfish later in the year when they are reproducing.
Fisher's report also included maps for possible entryways into the improved site. "We should consider helping the public with a path in and out of the site," Fisher said. "From taking a few people in, you can see there's a tendency to go in a certain path that could be developed without much effort," he said.
Foster complimented Fisher's work. "It's a really nice project that enhances existing features that haven't had enough attention paid to them," he said.