For the first time in its history, the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department is shaping a Master Plan through a community consensus process.
At a series of three meetings beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Adult Leisure Center, 6401 West 12th St., the department will seek input from the community, facility users and general public to assess current services and programs. This information will be used to develop the Master Plan, which will serve as a strategic vision for the next five to seven years. Not only is the Master Plan a critical component of becoming accredited through the National Recreation and Parks Association, but it is the vision we need to help move our city ahead.
Why is this important to Arkansas business people? First, because Little Rock Parks and Recreation brings economic, environmental, health, individual and community benefits to all. The parks represent diverse additions to our quality of life by helping us live a longer and better balanced life, enhancing ethnic and cultural harmony, offering lifelines to the elderly and helping preserve and protect the environment.
The economic benefit of parks and recreation, according to a 1996 National Recreation and Parks Association study, include increased tourism, enhanced land and property value, business retention, revenue generation, establishment of self-supporting programs and reduction of vandalism and crime.
An example of economic impact is the Busch Softball Tournament held at Interstate Park, which contributed an estimated $1.3 million to our local economy.
What kinds of facilities and properties make up the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department? From Riverfront Park and the River Market on the downtown shores of the Arkansas River to Ottenheimer Park in the city’s southwest area, parks are an extraordinary part of our everyday life in Little Rock. Parks and Recreation also manages facilities as diverse as the Adult Leisure Center, the Dunbar Community Center, War Memorial Fitness Center and Rebsamen Golf Course.
Little Rock Parks and Recreation provides services with a decreasing budget and fewer staff using innovative, creative programs and problem solving. About 400 dedicated and experienced employees help make Little Rock Parks and Recreation important to the lives of many people in our community. The department hopes to become even better stewards of this valuable asset and make Little Rock a more attractive place to live through the Master Plan process.
Your input will help create a comprehensive park system that progressively and responsively addresses the diverse and dynamic cultural, natural and recreational needs of central Arkansas. Six goals have been established for the plan:
• Open Space — Develop a comprehensive open space system that enhances and preserves natural resources and the environment while providing opportunities for citywide linkages.
• Recreational and Fitness Facilities — Provide services for each and every distinct community of Little Rock.
• Departmental Structure — Review and reorganize the structure of the Parks and Recreation Department to enhance efficiency and productivity.
• Programs — Provide recreational programs for all age groups based on predicted participation levels.
• Park Facilities — Provide services for each and every distinct community of Little Rock.
• Implementation and Funding — Develop and follow an implementation strategy that explores and identifies all feasible funding opportunities.
The Master Plan must be a reflection of the desires of the citizens of Little Rock, including the business community if we are to be successful. We want to elicit the opinions and suggestions of all Little Rock stakeholders to help shape goals and objectives, as well as to identify specific program demands, problems and issues which the Master Plan should address.
If you or someone from your business organization can be a part of these community meetings, you will be making an important investment in the future of Little Rock.
Brian Day is director of the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department. For more information on attending the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Master Plan Meetings, call 371-6839 or e-mail.