Parks commission discusses bike shuttle, city council

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is shuttling in some new ideas for the downhill mountain bike trails at Lake Leatherwood City Park.

At a workshop Tuesday, June 5, the commission discussed the details of implementing a shuttle system for the trails.

The commissioners decided to take a 60-day trial period to test the shuttle service, which will drop cyclists off and pick them up after their ride down the trail at Lake Leatherwood, parks director Justin Huss said. The downhill trails will open Thursday, June 14, and the shuttle could potentially open by the end of June. During the 60-day trial period, the commission will pay two contractors to shuttle cyclists and their bikes. For this interval, Huss said, the shuttle will be free for the cyclists. That could change after the trial period, he said.

The commission is considering working with Adventure Mountain Outfitters and Phat Tire Bike Shop to run the shuttle. Huss said he’s negotiating with the businesses to receive the best deal for the commission, but he expects to pay them about $350 to $400 a day. The businesses will most likely alternate the days that they work the shuttle, Huss said.

Chairman Bill Featherstone and commissioner Ferguson Stewart voiced concerns about working with Adventure Mountain Outfitters, describing the representative as a rule-breaker.

“You know we’re getting in bed with a known rule-breaker,” Featherstone said.

Denton West, the owner of Adventure Mountain Outfitters, declined to comment on the issue.

For the 60-day period, Huss said, the contractors will provide both the vehicles and the trailers to haul the cyclists as a part of the shuttle. After that, the commission might look into buying its own vehicles and trailers, Huss said. He said it all depends on the data the commissioners gather during the 60-day trial.

“I’m convinced it’s going to be either better than we’re expecting or worse,” Featherstone said.

Throughout the initial trial, the commissioners will be able to determine what they need to do to keep wait times for the shuttle down and to ensure a quality experience, Huss said. Commissioner Cameron DeNoewer said cyclists often pay thousands of dollars for their equipment, so it’s important the trailers the commission uses don’t damage the bicycles.

Commissioner Christian Super suggested reassessing the shuttle system halfway through the 60-day period. The commission will still have to finalize a daily and monthly schedule for the shuttle, Huss said.

The commission moved on to discuss the city council’s recent rejection of a motion to dissolve the parks commission.

Two of the council members, Kristi Kendrick and David Mitchell, voted to disband the parks commission, but the other four members voted against the measure, choosing to keep the commission autonomous from city government.

“I think it’s pretty openly obvious that we have openly hostile … members there,” Huss said. “I don’t think you can define that any other way, and that’s going to be a challenge.”

DeNoewer thought the issue stemmed from a lack of information about the parks commission.

“They have no idea what it entails,” DeNoewer said.

Featherstone said the parks commission should be separate from the city government, keeping it apolitical and autonomous from city council.

“We’re about parks, and it should never be political, and it should never be personal,” Featherstone said.

The parks commission does listen to the wishes of Eureka Springs residents, Featherstone said.

“We don’t have autonomy from the citizens we serve,” Featherstone said.

The commission is waiting to get confirmation from the Eureka Springs Community Center about the location of the greenhouse, the project Kendrick and Mitchell expressed concern about at previous council meetings.

The commission agreed to keep focusing on the Eureka Springs community.

“Why do you want to bust that up? We represent the will of the town,” Featherstone said.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, at The Auditorium.

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