Expert: Eureka Springs doesn't need new community center

Monday, May 23, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS -- In the opinion of an expert, Eureka Springs doesn't need a new community center, it just needs to develop the facilities and recreation programs it already has.

Dr. Merry Moiseichik of the University of Arkansas' Economic Development Institute in Fayetteville and Amy Cole, a graduate student, were on hand for the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Monday evening.

Moiseichik did a survey for the commission several years ago as a forerunner of the development of the Lake Leatherwood Ball Fields.

She also did the community survey and study prior to the construction of the Berryville Community Center.

She is an associate professor in recreation and sports management.

She was offering her services, at the request of Parks Director Bruce Levine, to do another survey to determine what the community wants in the way of a community or recreation center.

She presented several ideas of what types of programs could be developed here that would fit in with the facilities already available.

"With a population of only 2,000, I don't think you should have a building," she said. "You probably can't support one. You already have a school and several parks. You can use those for programs."

As commissioners explained programs available, Moiseichik suggested "tying into those and find out who you are missing. Kids who don't like sports? Senior who want a place to gather and socialize? You have a lot of buildings available. Building another one wouldn't be good for you."

What she did suggest was to find someone who could creatively develop programs, charge fees to pay for the program and his or her salary and to do marketing to make the programs successful.

Asked if a public swimming pool might be possible, she said, "You need 20,000 people to support a pool."

Moiseichik said her senior graduate students could do research for the commission next spring for $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the methods used.

Commissioner David Renko asked several times, "Why should we bother to hire you to do a study or survey when you have just told us to put more money into what we have, to hire a program director and that we don't need a new building?

"What more would a study show us? I think we need to develop Lake Leatherwood and the in-town parks."

As discussion went on to how the commission might find the funds to hire the students and what recommendations the commission could make to the city council, Alderman Aaron Falotico arrived.

He had initiated the request at the council table in early April to ask the commission to form a committee to study the need for a community center.

"All I wanted the commission to do was form a committee with one of you as a member," he said.

"We didn't want you to make recommendations or hire a consultant, we just wanted you to form a committee of three or five members. That's all."

In other business, the commission tentatively set a recreation needs public hearing for 5 p.m. Monday, June 20, prior to the regular meeting.

The hearing is a necessary part of the grant application process, should the commission apply for grants from the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department or Fish and Game Department this year.

Renko volunteered to chair a committee to coordinate trail development in town and at Lake Leatherwood. He said the committee will work with the Western District Community Development Partnership (CDP) on the trail between Black Bass Lake and Beaver Town and with the City Advertising and Promotion Commission (CAPC) to promote the trails.

He is also looking for volunteers to serve on the committee. Anyone wanting to volunteer should call the parks office at (479) 253-2866.

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