Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
About 30 people attended a public input session last week to listen and offer suggestions for the Walker Park Master Plan.
Park planners Alison Jumper and Ken Eastin led a discussion Thursday evening inside the city’s Senior Activity and Wellness Center.
Jumper told the crowd the master planning process is in such an early stage of development that all ideas were welcome, no matter how big or small.
Walker Park was added to the city’s parks system in 1949, and has been the home of youth baseball in Fayetteville since the 1960s when volunteers built the original baseball fields and concession stand. The city has since added basketball, tennis, volleyball, racquetball and handball courts, as well as horseshoe pits, soccer fields, batting cages, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a skateboard park.
Officials said the 2014 extension of Frisco Trail, which was completed as part of the Regional Razorback Greenway, has brought more residents to the once quiet park in south Fayetteville, prompting the need for a master plan.
Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recently approved a budget proposal that includes $250,000 for a splash pad, but a location hasn’t yet been determined.
Suggestions offered Thursday night ranged from simple requests like adding more trashcans, increased parking, and building a hydration station for sipping water and filling bottles.
Three members of the Fayetteville Bike Polo group said if the city built a bike polo court, it would be one of the only places in the region that could attract well-attended tournaments. The sport, which has grown in recent years to include over 200 clubs in North America, is similar to traditional polo, except that bicycles are used instead of horses.
The club members said a paved bike polo court – which is typically about 150 feet long and 75 feet wide, can also serve as a multi-use area for other sports, including roller derby and street hockey.
Other ideas included a bocce ball court, outdoor theater space, a community fruit orchard, parkour or exercise equipment, a BMX track, and the addition of lighting at the skateboard park.
Connor Williamson, who regularly rides a freestyle bike at the skatepark, said he’s gathered over 500 signatures of area residents who’d like to be able to use the park after dark.
Williamson said the park gets overcrowded at certain times of the day, which limits use for some riders. He said winter hours are cut short in the afternoons due to limited daylight, and the summer heat tends to leave the park empty during the hottest times of the day.
Jumper said the city has considered adding lights to the skatepark, but the lack of adopted lighting standards for amenities like skateparks has given officials pause. Jumper said legal liability issues can sometimes arise if lights aren’t designed and placed in a way that limits shadows that can lead to crashes and injuries. She said she knows residents are eager for lights, though, and that the department hasn’t given up hope on the idea.
Several attendees on Thursday said safety is sometimes a concern at Walker Park, and should be considered when planning for the future. Area homelessness, they said, can lead to uncomfortable situations, including congregations of people setting up camps near the city’s parks and trail systems.
Melissa Terry, a teacher at Washington Elementary School, said a “candid conversation” would be helpful when planning for longterm improvements in south Fayetteville.
She said the addition of amenities – such as the new disc golf course that was built in the woods on the northeast corner of Walker Park – can have an impact for better or worse, but there’s more to solving the problem than just pushing people away.
“(The disc golf course) improved the safety of the park, but it didn’t address the issue of what was causing those encampments,” Terry said.
Those who were unable to attend Thursday’s meeting can submit ideas and other comments by telephone, email or letter by March 23 by calling 479-444-3471, emailing [email protected], or sending a letter to Fayetteville Parks and Recreation, 113 West Mountain, Fayetteville, AR 72701.