ES parks commission agrees to buy trailers for shuttle service

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Eureka Springs Parks Commission is finalizing a plan for a shuttle service at Lake Leatherwood City Park to offer mountain bikers the full experience of downhill trails.

Parks director Justin Huss said Aug. 21 he has been working on an agreement for the shuttle service, where the commission would work with Jim Nelson’s Shuttle Bug to get the service running. Huss said the commission would pay for all those expenses out of operating costs, including insurance, ticketing, armbands and machines.

“Beyond the operating expenses, we’ll take 10 percent into an escrow account that we would like to grow into $20,000,” Huss said, “which would be a maintenance improvement fund. I think the escrow account is a smart plan. It allows us to never worry on anything that comes up.”

Once the service begins to show profit and the maintenance improvement fund reaches $20,000, Huss said, the commission would split that 10 percent with Nelson to give back to the community.

“That 10 percent would be equally divided between them and us, reinvesting in events and additional community programs,” Huss said.

Huss said the commission needs to purchase two trailers and additional equipment for the service. Good trailers cost $8,000 each, he said, and the commission could get two for $15,000. Huss remembered receiving input from mountain bikers at the Arkansas Enduro Series race Aug. 18-19.

“One thing we had that was really useful was to have 130 people standing in line for four different shuttles,” Huss said. “We really got feedback on what design they liked.”

If the commission owns its own trailers, Huss said, there’s an opportunity to run advertisements on them.

“I believe that’s something that will really give us value. It will allow us to brand it,” Huss said. “We can utilize it for other events and programming, so I feel we should just go forward.”

Commissioner Christian Super moved to spend up to $17,000 on two trailers and other equipment for the service, and the commission agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, the commission heard from Diane Stull about operating a food truck at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Stull addressed the commission July 17 about offering food at the park, and she said Aug. 21 she’s still hoping to make that happen. Chairman Bill Featherstone asked how soon Stull could have the food truck running, and Stull said she’d need a month.

“We have discussed this amongst ourselves, and we’ve reached no resolution yet,” Featherstone said. “The more we dig into it, the more complex it seems. There’s other dynamics at play we have to consider.”

Huss said he wants everyone to have a shot at selling food at the park if they’d like to.

“It’s a matter of being equitable to everyone who might be interested,” Huss said. “There’s some other ones in the area. How do we manage that, give it a fair shake? Is it fair for everybody? That’s just the hesitation I have.”

Commissioner Cameron DeNoewer said he’d like to see what Stull can do.

“It doesn’t have to be a ‘you’re here for six years’ kind of thing,” DeNoewer said. “We need to get with that program and put the word out there. Diane knows what she’s doing and other people have an opportunity. I think it’s gotten to the point where we have to do something.”

Huss said he’d be open to do a trial run until the end of the year, when the commission could have a finished plan for food service at the park. Commissioner Steven Foster moved to allow Huss to negotiate an agreement with Stull, and the commission agreed to do so.

Huss said the agreement should be completed soon, saying Stull could start selling food at the park as soon as that happens. His initial hesitance to work with Stull, Huss said, had nothing to do with Stull and everything to do with other food truck operators in Eureka Springs. It’s important to consider everyone in town, Huss said, when making a decision like this.

“I’m all for this,” Huss said. “It’s just my job to think about the phone calls we’re going to get.”

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at The Auditorium.

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