Parks commission agrees to work with community center on greenhouse

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is growing its scope with the help of the Eureka Springs Community Center.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the commission voted to enter a formal agreement with the community center to use the greenhouse. Parks director Justin Huss said the commission had already discussed the idea at workshop, saying the commission would have access to 50 percent of the greenhouse to grow native plants. The community center would pay for maintenance on the greenhouse, Huss said, and the commission would send city employees to check on day-to-day operations on-site.

“No money is changing hands,” Huss said. “It’s a functional maintenance agreement.

“Parks is going to manage the facility. The community center is still on the hook for maintenance,” said chairman Bill Featherstone.

Featherstone said construction on the greenhouse is almost complete.

“The beds haven’t been built yet, but it’s close. It’s going to be heated,” Featherstone said. “It’s got electricity. It’s got fans for the warm months. It’s got all the bells and whistles. It had to be a little smaller than it was designed to be, because they ran into a gas line and wouldn’t let us build on the gas line.”

Huss said it’s possible to start growing native plants in the greenhouse by next year.

“We’re on a good schedule to make that happen before spring,” Huss said. “There’s a tremendous benefit. We had made no changes to what we were working off of at the workshop. I’m excited about it. I’m excited we’re at this point now.”

Commissioner Ruth Hager moved to enter a formal agreement with the community center to operate the greenhouse, and the commission agreed to do so.

In other business, commissioner Ferguson Stewart brought up the need for grants. Stewart said he’s aware of a few grant opportunities that would help parks, and Huss said the city is working with grants administrator Catherine Baker to make those grants happen. Everyone in the city is working together, Huss said, to get applications complete for various grants.

“There’s several things in town infrastructure-wise and sewer-wise that qualify for those grants,” Huss said. “The way it works is you start one application and finishing it, and then you get the next one. What we’re trying to do as a city is get together and prioritize those projects so we can maximize what we get out of that. Some of these are a pretty substantial match.”

Featherstone asked if parks is in line for the grants, and Huss said the commission is.

“We’re in line. We’re at the table,” Huss said. “There is potential for grants.”

The commission moved on to hear from Chris Fischer, who has been working on a mitigation project at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Fischer described the purpose of the project, saying the Walton Family Foundation is funding it through the Northwest Arkansas Trailblazers in partnership with the parks commission and a group of local master naturalists.

“We’re trying to develop, in essence, user-friendly access to portions of the Miner’s Rock unit that are available primarily by the Miner’s Rock multi-use loop,” Fischer said. “In doing so, we create educational forms of information for the natural resources along that route.”

The project also aims to improve the landscape, Fischer said, with the goal of placing native plants along the trail.

“Volunteers have logged over 90 hours of trail visits,” Fischer said. “We have been looking lately at some of the perimeter locations where folks can enter the larger area. One of the biggest challenges is to make sure some of the sticky intersections on the bottom end can be adjusted without major issues to enter some of the older parts of Miner’s Rock loop and get back to your car in a reasonable time.”

The greenhouse project is a great opportunity to get more native plants on the trails, Fischer said.

“It would make a great location to get seedlings started for native plants, for a lot of projects,” Fischer said. “That’s something the mitigation project would surely like to look into going into the future.”

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at The Auditorium.

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