Hefley thanked Glenn Harris, of Cherokee Village Planning and Zoning, for his work on obtaining the grant. Former Alderman Peter Martin asked if there was a public hearing held as required. Martin noted that proposals for a community center and soccer field had been made in the past.
The mayor said, "I am not going to go through all that. You are never going to please everybody." Hefley did not answer Martin about whether the public meeting had been held to discuss the walking trail.
Martin later addressed the audience at the end of the meeting, despite the mayor telling him, "No," when he came forward to speak in the designated public comments section of the meeting.
Martin said, "You have been talking about making a park up there. Your planning map shows it is zoned industrial, therefore, if we change the zoning to 'recreational area' it has to have a hearing. It did not have a hearing. Therefore, if I go back and find out and tell them, you might lose the funding. All I ask is that you follow the rules set forth. The planning map is on the wall and it is not zoned for a park to be in that area. And you did not have the public hearing. That is why everybody is here, you are having secret meetings, your planning and zoning has been a travesty for the last eight years under your jurisdiction."
Another member of the community then spoke after Martin, suggesting a way to avoid conflicts such as this by appointing members to planning and zoning who do not all live within the city. The suggestion was that city council have those serving on both boards to step down and serve on only one board.
Hefley explained the city ordinance dictates those serving on the board must live within the city. The resident said he felt that should also be considered for a change. The issue was compared to Hardy's successful and non-controversial annexation.
The trail was proposed by Harris in October, and city council gave Harris approval to apply for a grant to fully fund a wheelchair accessible, wildlife walking trail. Alderman Tom Thone voted against the project.
The grant is made available through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. This is a new grant program that is a cooperative effort between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's Outdoor Recreation Grants Program.
Projects eligible to be funded by the program are: New trails, renovations of existing trails, extensions or relocations of existing trails with a commitment to open the trails to public use, and are specifically designed to encourage and enhance the ability of the general public to observe wildlife.
Trails funded by this program may be either terrestrial or water trails.
The grant program will spend $1 million on various trails throughout the state, with 80 percent of the money available to cities and counties, and 20 percent being made available for trails at the state level.
Cherokee Village applied for the maximum amount of $100,000 with no match requirements for the city and received over $88,000 for the project.
At the time of Harris' presentation to council, he explained the grant required that the city must own the property for the trail.
The park will be located on 36.82 acres near the Highland Elk's Lodge, and will utilize 30 acres near Hospital Drive. The city will be required to maintain the trail for 10 years.
Harris explained the city will use community service workers for maintenance and upkeep on the paved trail.
Although little mowing will be required because the trail will be located in a wooded area to maintain the wildlife habitat, occasional weed eating, and trash pickup will be required.
The city will also seek the support of local government and civic organizations.
Harris said the Boy Scouts and Master Gardeners would be able to utilize the trail for projects, as well as schools, as it will include an amphitheatre for interpretive programs.
The gated, paved trail will be approximately three quarters of a mile long and will be wheelchair accessible, Harris said at the initial meeting in October.
He also said that some local nursing homes have taken an interest in the proposed project for their residents to enjoy.
The only cost the city will incur will be labor for clearing the trail, which can be done by the city's street department.
It is unclear when the project will begin.