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Public Services Council Committee reviews Parks and Recreation Master Plan

The City of Jonesboro

The City of Jonesboro held a special meeting Monday for a presentation of the Master Parks Plan to the Public Services Council Committee.

The city signed a $190,000 contract with Halff Associates Incorporated of Little Rock, a consulting firm, to develop a 10-year plan for the city's park system. The plan was presented by Christian Lentz from the firm.

Lentz provided insight on improvements the city could make to the parks including accessibility, updated lighting, and improved park pathways. The recommendations totaled $4,890,000 worth of near-term park system maintenance projects.

“It’s always awkward to put those dollars out there but, that's the reality of the cost it takes to maintain a top-notch parks and recreation system,” Lentz said.

The plan is in phase 4 needing final consideration and adoption by City Council.

“It’s going to take a lot of resources and partnerships to accomplish a lot of this plan,” Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver said. “As mayor, I am committed to following this plan should the city council approve it.”

In the presentation, Lentz went over the different methods of outreach to ensure getting input from the community of Jonesboro including focus groups, an advisory committee, public information booths, community surveys, and an interactive map.

Over 1,200 responses were recorded for the web survey, 60+ interactive map participants, and 135+ public information booth participants.

“Overall having 1,200 respondents from a community of this size is a subtle response. As long as we are getting over 1,000 with a community of this size we are satisfied,” Lentz said.

Inside the plan, the city parks were given a system score of 3.6. The lowest ranked park was specialty park Beatrice Park with a score of 1.9, the highest was Union Park with a 4.6 score.

“Three is just generally an average condition. We found the system score at a 3.6 which is generally consistent with the condition assessment we do in a number of park systems,” Lentz said.

Some of the listed investment goals in the master plan include Community Gardens, Aquatics Facilities, Dog Parks, Indoor Pickleball / Tennis Courts, and new athletic fields in Joe Mack Campbell Park.

Developed alongside the Master Parks Plan was the Health Accelerator plan, also presented during the meeting. The nearly $5 million figure for the master plan does not factor in the Health Accelerator Plan.

The accelerator plan is funded by a grant given to the city by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to address social determinants of health.

The CDC Social Determinants of Health are education access and quality, health care access and quality, economic stability, social and community context, and neighborhood and built environment. The parks are supposed to help address the neighborhood and built environment and the social and community context portion.

“The intent in preparing this specific plan was to improve the neighborhood and built environment and to provide better opportunities for social interaction for targeted populations that oftentimes it’s hard to reach those populations when you are building a parks and recreation system,” Lentz said.

The grant application objectives are to increase the accessibility of parks and recreational facilities for people with disabilities. The target populations according to the plan are persons with a disability, persons experiencing poverty, ethnic and racial minorities, and persons lacking housing and/or transportation.

“The master plan is set up so it specifically cross-references the recommendations in the health accelerator plan,” Lentz said.

Lentz added the addition of the Health Accelerator Plan is what delayed the initial master plan coming out. According to the city of Jonesboro’s website, Phase 4 was supposed to be completed by Fall of 2023.

“As y’all know we’ve been waiting on this plan for a while,” Parks and Recreation Director Danny Kapales said to the committee. “It’s been a long process but the wait was needed. We needed to make sure we got this right.”

Kapales also added that the accelerator plan took a lot of details.

“We need to make sure that every detail is correct and right for our community,” Kapales said.

Lentz referred to the Health Accelerator Plan as “an addendum to the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.”

For more information, the full plan can be found here.

A 2019 graduate of Sheridan High School, Robinson graduated from A-State with a degree in multimedia journalism in December 2023. In January 2021, while working toward her degree, she was named sports editor for The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper.