Ash Flat Ball Park will undergo some major changes in the coming months that will cater to the needs of the area residents.
"We want to make the park more appealing to the residents," Mayor Brien Nix Hall said.
With the help of a $173,000 grant awarded to the city by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, partial lighting will be installed along the 1,900-foot walking trail, two jungle gyms will be added along with a 30-foot by 50-foot covered picnic area and a pavilion -- all before the year is up. The city hopes to finish lighting the trail in 2005.
"We wanted something for the families," Hall said. "A lot of people who are using the park have toddlers and babies. We wanted to have something for them."
To meet their part of the agreement the city will pay for the materials and do the work themselves, Hall said.
"We go begging for any grant we can," Hall said. "The worse they can tell you is no. I pleaded for $750,000, and although we didn't receive as much as we had hoped, we got more than almost everyone else."
Hall said the city scored one from perfect on its grant application, prepared by White River Planning and Development -- better than larger cities across the state, including Jonesboro.
"I feel really fortunate we got what we did," Hall said.
Gary Benton, city parks and recreation supervisor, said the park was created in the 1970s. He said it was a popular spot for the first few years but then it began to lose popularity. The park has always been used for area softball leagues and more people have begun to use the park again in the last few months, he said.
The land for the park was donated to the city by Bob Watson. The city also purchased an additional 17 acres at a reduced price from Hall's grandmother for the park's future growth.
The park has been a spot for many city improvements during the last several months. The city paved College Drive that leads to the park and is in the process of building a six-acre lake. The city plans to extend the walking trail once the lake is completed, Hall said.
The two planned jungle gyms will be of use for children ages 2 through 12 and provide 18 activities on the large gym and 12 on the smaller one, Hall said. The city will purchase impact woodchip material on the ground in the playground areas. The entire park will be ADA compliant, Hall said.
The picnic pavilion will provide electricity for outdoor events and concerts.
The park is not used by only the residents of Ash Flat. Hall said residents from across the county and their visitors use the park free of charge. Because of the extended use of the park, the city has received donations from residents and businesses of the community to make improvements and ensure the park will be around for years to come.
"It's definitely been a community effort," Benton said.
Hall said Benton is in the park each day cleaning the grounds and thinking of ways it can be improved.
"He's the backbone of our parks' success," Hall said.
The city also has a city park located off Highway 354 near the city fire department. That area provides tennis and basketball courts along with slides and other activities for children.