The Fort Smith Parks Commission discussed several topics at its two-hour October meeting, including River Valley Sports Complex funds, potential Parrot Island Waterpark expansion and the new Riverfront Skate and Bike Park.
While the commission went through the upcoming Parks and Recreation Capital Improvement Plan, Parks Department Director Doug Reinert made mention of the funds listed for the RVSC. Reinert told the commission while there is an estimated $201,000 listed on the plan for the complex, it is not any more money.
“There’s not additional funds set aside,” Reinert said. “We still have the original $1.6 million that was allocated, and the money that was left over is still sitting there and still in the CIP.”
This means, because the project remains incomplete and the city spent $1.28 million, there are remaining funds. Reinert said the money should go toward the legal fees the city incurs through the ongoing litigation process.
Fort Smith’s Board of Directors approved at its Tuesday study session placing a resolution on the Oct. 16 agenda that would allow it to appeal the verdict in the River Valley Sports Complex lawsuit.
Parrot Island Waterpark changes
Deputy Administrator Jeff Dingman noted there has been $650,000 set aside for changes and expansion at Parrot Island Waterpark. He said Sebastian County will match that amount and the park has $200,000 in its own expansion fund to bring the total amount for improvements at the park to $1.5 million.
Plans include the changing the yellow slide, currently a straight plunge slide, into one where users slide down on an intertube due to some safety and comfort issues for visitors. Dingman said slide designers are trying to work around the current slide tower.
Dingman said there is also a proposal to add a “Flowrider” surf simulator to the park. This will allow two people at a time to use boogie boards or surf boards to try “surfing.”
“It’s the type of attraction that is recommended by American Resort Management that they say they see huge popularity in their facilities that have these things,” Dingman said. “It expands the draw of the park. People seek those things out and travel to go use them.”
The goal would be to get the slide changed and Flowrider installed by next season and within the $1.5 million budget, Dingman said.
Chairman Casey Millspaugh said he likes the idea of expanding the park if there is quantifiable growth but wants to speak with members of the community before the commission votes to recommend the money actually be used for Parrot Island, rather than being reallocated for other needs.
“I can see the conversation on Facebook forums, ‘Ok, we’re throwing new money after something that we built that’s been ineffective,’” Millspaugh said. “I can see that conversation playing out. I don’t think that’s going to be an easy sell.”
The commission will hold a special meeting next Wednesday at noon to discuss the potential expansion before making its recommendations. There will be a combined meeting with the city directors and Sebastian County Quorum Court Oct. 18 to discuss the waterpark, its proposed 2019 budget and expansion.
Ashtrays at the new skate and bike park
Former commission chairman and main engineer for the Riverfront Skate and Bike Park said all Fort Smith parks are considered non-smoking facilities. There have been issues since the park’s soft opening two weeks ago, however, and ashtrays have been placed at the park.
Aldridge said it’s better for people to dispose of their cigarettes in ashtrays than to throw them on the ground and litter.
“That’s the reason those ashtrays are there,” Aldridge said. “I’ve had people comment like you would not believe, ‘Let’s get police officers down here to write tickets. That’ll take care of it.’”
He noted there are other things the police department needs to take care of, and that smoking is not being encouraged, rather littering is being discouraged. Aldridge asked the commission to help those overseeing the park to help make sure people understand the reasoning behind the decision to place ashtrays there and that “common sense should rule the day.”
“Don’t complain about the trash, we’re trying to get it picked up,” Aldridge said. “Bend over and pick up a water bottle and throw it in the trash for us. That would really help. We appreciate that way more than we do the complaints.”