Community

Hope citizens voice opinions over recreational needs at public hearing; new pool, downtown park top requests

The City of Hope hosted a public hearing at the Fair Park Community Center Tuesday evening where Citizens of Hope could voice their opinions over what a potential grant worth up to $500,000 could go towards in order to improve recreational life in Hope.

The grant is done through the Arkansas Department of Tourism who will match whatever the City of Hope puts into building up Hope Parks & Recreation, up to $250,000. The grant in the past has gone towards things like Fair Park and Northside Park, the Hub pavilion, and the soccer complex. In order to achieve this grant, the city of Hope must host four different public hearings with a variety of different groups. This is the second one where as the first one was held Tuesday morning with school age children where 31 participates got to voice their opinions on what the youth wanted. This 2nd public hearing had nearly 100 people in attendance.

“I think we have got a really good representation of the recreational users in the City of Hope,” City Manager Catherine Cook said about the citizens in attendance. “We have young people, we have athletes, we have some of us who are a little older, we have the business community, we have coaches, we have elected officials, and people who are interested in other different organizations. This is probably the most representative of our community in a public hearing we’ve had ever, and that’s good.”

One of the most popular requests from the people in attendance was for either better repairs to the outdoor pool or to build a completely new, indoor pool complex. Amy Knoll, the coach of the Hope Piranhas Swim Team, we the first to bring up this topic.

“We are obviously pulling for the pool,” she said. “There’s been lots of work done on it this year and we are gratefully appreciative of that. This past weekend we had a Junior Olympic qualifying meet in Pine Bluff. We had a dinner, we stayed in a hotel, we swam Saturday all day, we ate lunch, I bought gas. If we could host meets, we could bring that kind of business to Hope.”

One man in attendance also voiced his support for the building of a new pool complex.

“We need to keep the pool open and have it where we can have swim meets here in Hope,” he said. “The swimming team this year is one of the best in the area and we got some kids here that can go to college to swim. I just don’t want to take my girl to Texarkana every day just to be on the swim team.”

The man also brought up that an indoor pool could benefit more than just the local swim team.

“I’d also like to see an indoor pool at the college or somewhere where the old people can swim year-around,” he said. “We like to swim as well.”

Cook, however, said that the grant will not fund the construction of a pool, but said that it could be something they work on in the future for a different project.

“At this time they’re not actually funding pools,” she said. “They will fund splash pads, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be identified as a future recreational need for the City of Hope it just means it won’t be eligible for this grant fund. That’s certainly important and important for our community for the future. In the future if the citizens of Hope want to support that effort, that can be something that’s on there.”

Cook says that this topic has been talked about before, but it would very likely require a sales tax to be put into place to create the funding for it to happen.

“In the Hempstead County Strategic Plan, one of the things talked about in that was a community center with an indoor pool,” she said. “Obviously that is something that costs a lot more than $250,000 or $500,000 or more. Realistically, it would take something like a sales tax for a specific period to do one of those things that would then drop down for a certain amount for repairs and maintenance.”

Another popular topic was the construction of a possible pocket park downtown, something that was first brought up by Downtown Network Past President Bob Erwin.

“The city currently owns a lot downtown where the sporting goods store used to be on Elm Street,” he said. “The building was raised and I propose that we work on building a pocket park in that location, a place where people can come as they’re strolling through downtown. This will not only affect citizens but tourists as well and give people a place to put their children and to relax.”

Kim Hollis, another member of the Downtown Network, backed up Erwin’s proposal.

“When we started the Hope Downtown Network, we tried to make downtown a place where we can invite people to come and spend some time,” she said. “We started a survey and one of the main things that came out of that survey was that moms wanted a place to bring their families downtown where they can have a place to sit and be safe. That pocket park is the idea of that. When we say ‘park’ people usually think of playground equipment, but it could be anything. If you go to other towns, you can see that there are all kinds of ideas.”

Anna Powell, the 1st Vice President of the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council, brought up her own idea of what could be included in that pocket park.

“About four years ago, we started having a discussion with the Jr. Auxiliary in Hope about the opportunity to do a pocket park in downtown,” she said. “Our mission at the Arts Council is to expose art to children and we believe that a pocket park could be something where we can add a stage to downtown. We could also add a water feature like a splash pad.”

The splash pad was another popular idea among the citizens as Cook said it could be included in the grant proposal.

“My daughter has always enjoyed the splash pad at Prescott and Texarkana,” one woman in attendance said. “She’s almost 15 and still enjoys splash pads. I think it would be a good addition to a park. Kids love those.”

Travis Black, a baseball coach in Hope, wanted to use the money from the grant to fix the baseball fields in Hope.

“There’s a real issue that every time it rains, there are some drainage issues,” he said. “Whenever we have games in Hope, we always have to cancel because the fields are too wet.”

One woman agreed with Black and said that Kelly Fields needs a lot of work done.

“I’m out there a lot and we do need new lights,” she said. “Our lights are old and it’s hard to see out there. We have drainage problems, water is up to their ankles in dugouts and there is grass in the in fields. The fields are really bad.”

One teen representative for the soccer community in Hope says that they have had similar issues with the soccer fields.

“We haven’t had a new set of nets in awhile and they’re all falling apart,” he said. “We also want to have a Watermelon Festival soccer tournament, but we can’t have that right now with the quality of our fields.”

Another man voiced his opinion about the lack of paved parking at the soccer complex.

“We need more paved parking lot at the soccer field,” he said. “If you’re not lucky enough to get a parking spot in the paved area, you’ll need rain boots to get through about 15 feet to get to the fields.”

Another popular suggestion was the addition of walking trails at Fair Park.

“I would just like to suggest that we add some walking trails here at Fair Park,” Linda Clarke, a woman in attendance, said. “We come over here daily and we have to walk in the roads and some people come flying by here pretty fast.”

Cook brought up that Huckabee Pond has a walking trail, but Clarke and another woman said that they don’t feel safe over there and that they wish some trees on that walking trail would be torn down to make it feel more open and inviting.

Safety overall was something that a lot of citizens were concerned with and wanted to us the money to improve that in Hope, specially the installation of security cameras.

“I know there’s a lot of kids that are unsupervised and breaking into things and doing things that they shouldn’t be doing,” one woman said.

Cook says that they have used security cameras in the past and they didn’t help much. One man also voiced his concerns over vandalism and littering at public areas like city parks.

“One of the things that will be important long term is teaching people not to do that,” Cook said.

The grant application has to be written and sent to Little Rock by August 27. Citizens who were not in attendance and would like to offer their input about recreational needs, they can call City Hall at 777-6701 or email Catherine Cook at citymanager@Hopearkansas.net or Summer Powell at spowell@hopearkansas.net.

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