Residents and city council members who attended a July 1 public hearing to discuss seeking a state grant to help pay for developing a park had, generally, negative reactions to the idea.
The possibility of a city park was raised June 24 by Mayor Lloyd Hefley. He told a Cherokee Village City Council meeting that White River Planning and Development was willing to seek an Arkansas Parks and Tourism grant which would pay half of the cost of building a park.
White River Planner Andy Bridgers told the council, preliminary discussions had been about a 30 acre park which would include a soccer field, hiking trails, picnic pavillion and playground.
The July 1 hearing was called a starting point, a chance to get citizen input as to what features people would like to see in a park. A preliminary design, cost estimates and other details would then be included in an Aug.1 grant application.
At the hearing, citizens and council members questioned the need for a soccer field and walking trails. Others expressed doubts the city could afford to pay half the cost of building a park, worried about maintenance costs and called other city needs more important.
"In the end, the general concensus was, the city would not apply for a grant this year," said Mitzi Hargan of White River Planning and Development. "The city will reevaluate and could apply next year."
Mayor Lloyd Hefley would have preferred the city seek a grant this year and now that the discussion of a park project has begun, he intends to keep the issue alive.
"The city owns land where a park could be developed and, if money is available to pay half the cost, I would like to see us pursue it," said Hefley.
Hefley believes walking trails with exercise stations would be beneficial to Cherokee Village senior citizens but a park is badly needed for the city's youth.
"Many people say this is a retirement community and we don't need a park," said Hefley. "But the truth is, there are many younger families and children in Cherokee Village. We don't do enough for them."
Hefley sees soccer as a growing sport all over the country and Cherokee Village and the surrounding area need playing fields.
"I have learned there are six soccer teams formed in this area. There is lots of interest, but local teams have to go to Missouri to play because there are no fields around here."
The Mayor admits he has work to do to sell the park idea to citizens but adds many people he has talked to and met with are supportive.
Hargan, who is director of Community Development for the White River agency, does not see the July 1 hearing as a failure.
"We had good participation, about 25 people attended and a discussion has begun," said Hargan. "While no grant application will be made this year, next year is an open possibility."