Lake Leatherwood expansion proposed to parks commission
By Haley Schichtl
Lake Leatherwood Park could be adding to its list of recreational activities and expanding its capacity for parking soon.
Eureka Springs Soccer Club executive director Shreya Mike Smith and assistant director Terra Lewis are waiting to hear from the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission on a proposal to expand the ball fields at Lake Leatherwood Park.
The proposal includes two small soccer fields, an extended handicap hiking trail, a bridge over the creek, more parking, a picnic pavilion, picnic tables, a senior exercise playground and a zen garden. If the entire proposal is approved, the expansion would take up about five acres of the 1,600-acre park.
Smith said he and Lewis proposed the field expansion to the parks commission Tuesday, Jan. 21, and are hoping to get the proposal on the parks master plan.
A big reason Smith said they would like to add these changes is because their soccer club uses the park often, and they have a need especially for more fields and parking.
The soccer club is part of the Ozark Mountain Soccer League, which consists of teams from Eureka Springs, Berryville, Harrison, Bergman, Blue Eye, Huntsville and Lead Hill. Smith said there are six jamborees a year, and the clubs rotate hosting them, with one club sitting out each year.
“Our last fall jamboree, we had three to five hundred visitors using these fields,” Smith said. “What we need is to add some more fields, because we’ve got so many teams coming. And parking. … Last jamboree, we had to hire an off-duty policeman to help with parking because it was so congested.”
Lewis emphasized that although this is a big project, the soccer club would make an effort not to leave a big footprint on the park’s ecosystem.
“Conservation efforts are going to be something we’re very involved in and aware of. We’re not just going to go in and clear-cut the land,” Lewis said. “We want to use the timber that’s on the land, we want to save any native plants we can use for landscaping, and we’re going to be doing some major work and research on how to protect and preserve the banks of the creek from erosion.”
She also said she wants to try to use wood from any trees they have to cut down toward more needed picnic tables in the park.
Smith said that the plan is make all the changes to the very front of the park, with the soccer fields on one side of the creek and the parking and other recreational additions on the other side.
“It’s on both sides of the creek; we have an access to the ball field side and the lake side,” Smith said. “So this would beautify the whole entrance, and connect them with the bridge.”
Smith said he taught physical education at Clear Spring School between 1992 and 1994, and the school had a small soccer team. He said when the World Cup was hosted in the U.S. in 1994, interest in soccer grew in the community.
“So we went public with the club and had 60 to 80 kids sign up the first season,” Smith said. “I worked with various board members at Clear Springs, and volunteers like Terra.”
Lewis began volunteering with the club in 1998, and started out coaching the 6 and under team (6U), but now coaches 15U.
The club now has 90 players, and eight teams: two 8U, two 10U, two 12U, one 15U and one 6U.
The entire league consists of 457 players — 12 6U teams, 11 8U teams, 10 10U teams, nine 12U teams and 7 15U teams throughout the participating towns. There are also a few teams from towns outside of the league that play in select divisions.
“Some of the older teams we play are guest teams, like Rogers,” Smith said. “They don’t come to every jamboree.”
Kids under 15 can join the club to participate in both the fall and spring season for $50, which includes the uniform, or $30 for just fall.
The soccer club is a 501(c)(3) organization that accepts donations and volunteers. Donations can be taken to Equity Bank, and volunteers can sign up by contacting Smith at email@example.com. To learn more about the soccer league, visit ozarkmtnsoccer.teampages.com or Eureka Springs Soccer Club on Facebook.