Parks panel OKs forestry grant application

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is getting a little help with ongoing projects.

At a special called meeting Tuesday, Sept. 7, the commission heard from interim director Scott Miskiel about the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Urban and Community Forestry Grant. The project totals $21,887.50, Miskiel said, and the grant requires a 50 percent match. That means the commission will spend $10,950, Miskiel said, and the state will cover the remaining $10,937.50.

“We have to get the grant application in in just a few days and obviously if the commission doesn’t authorize the funds for the match, then we shouldn’t be pursuing it further,” Miskiel said.

Miskiel then introduced Christopher Fischer and Steve Dickey, who have been working on projects related to the grant. Fischer said there are four components to the project: creating an open space assessment, developing conservation concepts, advancing the Lake Leatherwood City Park glade research project and encouraging community participation.

“The open space assessment framework is designed to collect data and information specific to the natural habitats that are found within the full system of all the parks properties,” Fischer said. “The intent there is to gather ecological sensitive species information and really come to grips with the various habitats that those lands occupy.”

Fischer said the conservation management plan would identify techniques, methodology and approaches to conserve the spaces.

“We will enhance the … natural habitat dynamic by intervening,” Fischer said.

Then a group of master naturalists will be trained to learn skills for long-term monitoring of the spaces to keep an eye on the project’s progress, Fischer said.

“We have set up the grant to use park funding for the most part,” Fischer said. “That will enable us to not be dependent on another capital source, which we will then have to use while we wait on the reimbursement … from the forestry commission.”

Fischer said it’s a “very fortunate situation” to have funds set aside for a project like this.

“In the past, every forestry grant I’ve done for the city … there has been no budget to proceed,” Fischer said. “The last budget, we had to borrow money from a donor to operate the grant and wait upon the reimbursement. To have parks have the luxury of a line item budget … for this is just such a luxury.”

Dickey then described the glade project, saying there are five steps to study the glades at Lake Leatherwood City Park. The first step is identifying and recommending two research and education glades for restoration, Dickey said, and the second step is developing a plan for research and education such as a digital learning center.

“This is basically just exploring that concept … so we can put together something that is useful for the public to come and learn about glades,” Dickey said.

The third step is spreading information about the project, Dickey said, and the fourth step is putting all the information together in a document that can be printed.

Chair Kevin Ruehle asked how the project would coincide with the work that Sandy Formica is planning to do at the park in October and Fischer said it’s meant to supplement that work.

Additionally, Fischer said, the project would give the commission an opportunity to work with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Fischer said it would benefit everyone to have access to the experts involved with outside commissions.

Miskiel said the commission already budgeted $10,000 for the project, so the grant would double the available funding. There is one caveat, Miskiel said.

“If we do it through this grant, a portion of it will be spent this year but the bulk of it will end up in 2022,” Miskiel said. “For budgeting purposes, it’s going to come out of a different year.”

The commission then voted unanimously to approve the grant application.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the Auditorium.

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