Parks commission OKs additional Lake Leatherwood allocations

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission continued its discussion of Lake Leatherwood City Park allocations on Tuesday, March 19.

Parks director Justin Huss said he had expected to spend $15,000 to complete an LED upgrade on the park’s lighting system, but estimates came in higher than he hoped. Instead, Huss proposed using $3,500 to start converting some lighting to LED and splitting the rest of the allocations up for other purposes.

“That’s for buying light bulbs and replacing fixtures where appropriate, and just really systematically go through all our facilities and swap out to LED bulbs and fixtures,” Huss said. “We’ll start there. That’s not nothing.”

For the rest of the allocations, Huss proposed spending $6,000 for skid steer attachments, $3,000 for picnic tables and trash cans and $2,500 for a lift rental to complete park improvements. Commissioner Ruth Hager moved to allocate the funds, and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.

In other business, commissioner Cameron DeNoewer addressed hikers walking on private property. DeNoewer said the commission doesn’t endorse walking on private property but can’t do much to stop it.

“If people are out on nature walks … and they just so happen to wander on your property, that’s an innocent and natural thing that can happen,” DeNoewer said. “That does not directly relate to parks. We’re not sending people into your yard, folks. We’re just not doing that.”

Chairman Bill Featherstone said the commission doesn’t support trespassing of any kind.

“Knowing where you are is the first step. Are you actually on an official trail, and should you be there?” Featherstone said. “Stay on the trail. That’s what they tell you at state parks and federal parks. That’s the name of the game.”

“More accurate maps are going to help tremendously with that,” DeNoewer said. “Our natural resources are simply amazing in this area. With all those resources and activities comes growing pains, and everybody needs to be patient and nice.”

DeNoewer then addressed park visitors who use pesticides or herbicides to eliminate certain plants on the trails, saying that’s absolutely against the commission’s wishes. DeNoewer said he’s spoken with citizens who have reported seeing people using RoundUp on park property.

“As we’re trying to maintain our parks and grow and change, that’s really hard to do if you’re annihilating entire square feet of property with pesticides,” DeNoewer said, “so things can never grow there again or can’t grow there for seasons on end. How can we track what vegetation is there if it has been … turned into a toxic dump?”

Featherstone asked why anyone would use pesticides on park property.

“They feel it’s an invasive plant and if we kill it now, it won’t spread its seeds,” DeNoewer said. “That’s when you come to parks. Talk to your parks people. Take photos of it. We’ll go out there with you and address it in a positive manner, but dumping chemicals on these plants in the parks … that’s not good for anybody. Animals eat those plants.”

DeNoewer suggested putting a policy in writing, and commissioner Steven Foster said he’d like to discuss the issue at a policy workshop. Huss said the commission could reference policies implemented by the state to come up with something that works for everyone.

“We can start codifying … a lot of policies that are just slam dunks,” Huss said.

Also at the meeting, Chris Fischer updated the commission on how the mitigation project is going. Fischer said he’s been working to condense the inventory for the five work sites at the gravity trail section of the Miner’s Rock unit at Lake Leatherwood City Park. The next step, Fischer said, is putting new plant material at spots along those sites.

“Within the next couple of weeks, we’ll have to start flagging the five locations and figure out where some holes can be dug,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he’s excited to welcome state botanist Theo Witsell back to Eureka Springs, saying Witsell will give a talk at the Eureka Springs Community Center at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 31, followed by a walk at Lake Leatherwood.

“That’s going to be an extraordinary event,” Fischer said.

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

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