Parks commission allocates funds for trail manager, new equipment

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is serious about maintaining the new downhill mountain bike trails at Lake Leatherwood City Park.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the commission agreed to allocate $81,609.71 for the trail manager’s salary and equipment. Parks director Justin Huss said the funds came from the Walton Family Foundation and needed to be split between the salary and equipment. That would mean moving $41,609.71 to a human resources line item, Huss said, and spending the remaining $40,000 on equipment.

“It’s one check we received that’s being divided into two separate places,” Huss said. “The $40,000 is a one-time purchase on equipment. It’s procedural to have it allocated to go out.”

Commissioner Steven Foster moved to allocate the funds, and the commission agreed to do so.

In other business, Chris Fischer presented information on habitat landscape improvements at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Fischer said he recently met Patti Erwin, the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s former forest coordinator, and gave her a tour of the trees in town. Erwin told him she was working with the Walton Family Foundation on a massive tree planting in Benton County, Fischer said, so he asked her if the foundation would be interested in working on natural restoration near the downhill trails at Lake Leatherwood.

Fischer said he suggested having a meeting with the foundation and local community leaders to discuss the idea.

“We would simply like to say we think there is a better way to put new material in the park,” Fischer said. “We want to address Miner’s Rock as a place that is still multi-use.”

A week later, Fischer said, Erwin called him to say she had arranged a meeting with the foundation to consider the project.

“I suggested that we write a draft proposal for how that partnership project could work out between different groups in town, and Patti took that document, sent it in and it’s been approved,” Fischer said.

The idea of the project, Fischer said, is to assess the trail corridors and look at somewhat damaged or impacted areas.

“Number one is an assessment approach to looking at the forest in general and trying to designate reasonable locations within that facility for restoration activity,” Fischer said. “When I say restoration activity, that could be new plantings or erosion control.”

The other part of the project, Fischer said, involves creating a system of maps so projects can be developed specifically for certain segments of the park.

“We can take the information that’s out in the field and apply it to an actual diagram, so people can understand what the concept is, and so we can discuss what we think the priorities might be,” Fischer said.

He hopes to combine maps, Fischer explained, to get a sense of the terrain, the layout of the trails and the habitat areas. The project has provided funding to access exceptional mapmaking software, Fischer said.

“We’d like to talk to you specifically about how to develop something that functions not just for this project but for parks long-term,” Fischer said. “When most of us are gone, we want people to understand what we did in 2018.”

Huss said he’s excited to work on the project with Fischer and other community members.

“It’s going to be a neat process,” Huss said. “The mapping software is the ultimate management tool.”

Commissioner Cameron DeNoewer said he’s grateful Fischer brought the information to the commission.

“Thank you for being part of a solution and positive growth and change, instead of being part of the problem,” DeNoewer said. “What you’ve done here is simply astounding, not only for the present but for our future.”

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at The Auditorium.

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