Parks commission considers options for shuttle purchase

Thursday, June 27, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is working on purchasing a vehicle for the shuttle system at Lake Leatherwood City Park.

On Tuesday, June 18, the commission heard from parks director Justin Huss on the status of the new vehicle. Huss said the commission must go through a bidding process for any purchase over $20,000, saying the new shuttle vehicle will likely exceed that amount. Chairman Bill Featherstone asked if that meant the commission would wait to take action on the purchase, and Huss said he won't know how much the note payment will be until he gets the financing going.

"The question we'd have to get direction on is can we put a deposit on a prospective vehicle to hold it while we get approval?" asked commissioner Cameron DeNoewer.

"As long as it's refundable," Huss said.

Commissioner David Hartmann asked if the Eureka Springs City Council would need to waive bidding, and Huss said he plans to ask the council to do so. In the meantime, Huss said, the commission could work out an agreement with the owners of Shuttlebug to keep using the service.

"If the city council isn't willing to waive the rules we can still make those savings and operate better and more efficient by negotiating a direct lease for that vehicle," Huss said. "We can insure it ourselves, even through a lease."

Also at the meeting, interim gardener Scott Miskiel asked the commission to consider creating a plan to coordinate landscaping at the springs and parks in town. Miskiel said he's encountered layers and layers of invasive plants at the gardens, saying those plants need to be pulled up.

"It occurred to me we really need to develop a comprehensive gardening plan for each of these gardens," Miskiel said. "There are things we should do that would make maintenance easier. Just having a comprehensive plan will help a lot."

He continued, "Each of these gardens would be improved and the gardeners wouldn't be able to deviate from that. We're to maintain it, not change it. Then 20 years from now when I'm retired, I can walk on Spring Street and see something very similar. There will be continuity for decades."

Featherstone said he agreed with Miskiel's proposal.

"Personally, I'd like to say no to invasives, yes to natives and a really big yes to pollinators," Featherstone said.

Huss said establishing that kind of continuity is the commission's goal, but that's not possible without the help of the community. The Springs, Gardens and Greenhouse Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at Harmon Park, Huss said.

"We'd like to get some things going. Anyone interested can simply email," Huss said. "We'd love anybody interested to pitch in."

The commission also heard from Cheryl Rutledge, who is hoping to install a sculpture honoring Native Americans at a high-traffic park in town. Rutledge said the sculpture honors the indigenous people who lived in Eureka Springs before the westward expansion of immigrants.

"The history written states there were stories of various tribes who sometimes warred against each other and deemed this area as neutral ground so the springs could be enjoyed in peace, Rutledge said. I hope you will consider placing this sculpture at one of the spring locations to show our respect to the indigenous people from long ago."

Huss said he'd like to contact the groups being honored by the sculpture before placing it anywhere.

"We need to reach out to those nations before we do an installation that honors them," Huss said. "It's to make sure the tribes feel it's respectful. Then there would be participation and a dedication that could involve them. I like the concept."

Featherstone said the commission would be in touch with Rutledge between 30 to 60 days, and Rutledge said that would be fine. Commissioner Draxie Rogers volunteered to contact the indigenous groups.

"It's fantastic," Rogers said.

"It was a work of love and dedication," Rutledge said.

In other business, commissioner Ruth Hager brought up concerns about the soccer fields at Lake Leatherwood. Hager said she reached out to the students who play there, saying she has a list of things that could be improved, such as better lighting and repairs to areas damaged by animals. Featherstone said he feels it's the commission's responsibility to respond to these concerns.

"It's a parks facility on parks-managed property and the buck stops with us," Featherstone said.

The commission does rely on volunteers, Featherstone said, but it's up to the commission to organize volunteer work. Huss said the soccer fields are on the list of things to improve.

"We have to prioritize," Huss said. "We can only do so much."

The Ballpark Committee meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at Harmon Park, Featherstone said.

"We're short on money and we're short on volunteers," Featherstone said. "The onus is on us to mobilize volunteers to get them to do the things we can't do. That's what needs to happen at the ballpark."

The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at The Auditorium.

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