Tuesday, October 09, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Cities invest in park space

Plans for a year-round shooting range outside Jacksonville and new baseball fields and a water park in Cabot are encouraging signs that cities are making investments in their communities as the economy begins to make its slow recovery.

Jacksonville officials and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have reached an agreement to build a $2.1 million firing range on 160 acres off Graham Road just outside the city limits. It could open as soon as the end of next year.

The shooting range, near the Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, will be run by the AGFC, which will host its Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program seven times a year, such as trapshooting for students in many schools around the state.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is providing a $1.5 million grant for the project, while Jacksonville will fund $600,000 toward the target range. It will include 15 stations for archery, skeet, trap and pistol shooting. Jacksonville expects an annual economic benefit of $4.5 million, which will pay immediate dividends for the city’s investment.

Cabot last month unveiled plans for a $15 million baseball and water park off West Main, along with expanding the city’s community center. Cabot voters will decide in April if they want to extend the city’s existing one-cent sales tax to pay for these projects.

The parks commission is proposing a 47-acre hayfield off West Main Street for the parks project, which would include not only ball fields, but also a water park with a pool, waterslide, mock river and enclosed facility that could be rented for parties.

Cost estimates for the entire project are $1 million to buy the land, $1.4 million for an access road, $4.6 million for the water park and $5.2 million for baseball fields.

The parks commission also wants to spend $2.7 million to expand the Veterans Park Community Center with weight rooms and meeting rooms.

Mayor Bill Cypert, who wants to extend the sales tax to pay for $40 million in improvements, would rather build the new park on a 200-acre plot in the regional park that the city already owns. That is the site of the city’s BMX track.

That’s where the north interchange will be built if voters approve the sales tax extension.

Cypert believes voters will support another sales-tax extension if they understand what it will pay for and that it won’t cost them more than they are paying now.

Like the Jacksonville shooting range, the recreational improvements in Cabot should benefit both communities as they look toward a more prosperous decade.