Sebastian County to use for park challenge grants

FORT SMITH – Efforts to improve two of Sebastian County’s parks may receive government funding in the future.

The Sebastian County Quorum Court, during its session on Tuesday, approved two orders authorizing District Judge David Hudson to seek grants from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. These funds would be used for two improvement projects for Ben Geren Park in Fort Smith and Buckner Park in Witcherville.

Hudson wrote in a memo to Quorum Court that the Ben Geren Park project would involve demolishing the combined concession and toilet facility in the middle of the local softball complex and replacing it with a new, pre-fabricated facility priced at $ 184,909 . It also includes walkways that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act for two playgrounds in Ben Geren Park.

The Outdoor Recreation Matching Grant for this project is expected to cost approximately $ 265,000 in total, according to Hudson. The county expects to provide its 50% share through benefits in kind and labor.

Jay Randolph, Sebastian County park administrator and golf course superintendent, said the concession and toilet facility was built along with the softball complex in 1972. The building has seen some wear and tear since then and the toilets are not ADA compliant.

However, the new building would have ADA toilets, according to Randolph. The ADA sidewalks will also make it easier for people with disabilities to access the two playgrounds included in this project.

That came after the Quorum Court approved at a July session to spend $ 89,500 on engineering design work on a project to improve the drainage of the softball complex. This project aims to address problems with drainage of the entire complex in fields 3-10.

Hudson wrote that the Buckner Park project there would provide lights for the ball field, as well as new equipment for a new playground and ADA sidewalks for the new playground. Funding for this would come from a FUN Park Grant of $ 75,000.

Hudson said Tuesday the county will probably not know if it will receive those funds until later this year, and estimates it will not be able to implement the projects until after March or April. Applications for the scholarships are due on August 27th.

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