The City of Crossett unveiled last week a map of proposed long-term upgrades to the recreation area along the city’s Main Street.
The upgrade plan was submitted as part of a grant application for new tennis courts, and the reworked tennis courts — reduced from six to four – feature prominently in the image.
But just as likely to grab the attention of Crossett readers are the portions of the map with the label “future.” Key among them are a future 26-space parking lot, a future splash pad, a future basketball court, and a future public restroom.
Smaller additions include a new crosswalk from the tennis court area to the farmer’s market and a concrete cornhole area.
When they shared the plan, city officials emphasized that they represent the long-term design plan for the mid-city park, not something that will happen all at once. The map was developed in part following a July public hearing in which ideas were solicited from community members.
“(This plan) is based on direct community feedback of what community members would like to see in our park from public hearings, focus groups, social media interactions, and other citizen conversations,” officials said in sharing the image.
“The design plan contains items that will require multiple years, multiple successful grants and multiple phases, but we wanted to share with you the collective vision for that park property.”
The city council gave initial approval to seek the outdoor recreation grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. If allocated, it will be the same grant Crossett received in 2018 to help rebuild the city pool.
“If we were successful, we would receive a matching grant of $250,000,” Marshall said.
Though nothing has been officially determined, the mayor said the city administration hopes to partner with the Crossett School District to provide the match.
“We have had very open conversations with the superintendent, who is interested in pursuing that,” Marshall said. “It would be a joint use agreement since those courts are used heavily by the high school tennis athletes, and by many, many residents.”
The current grant application focuses on the tennis courts, which – if the funds are awarded – will be built on engineer reinforced ground and will feature two courts that can be used to play pickleball in addition to tennis. The pickleball suggestion was one that was first batted around at the July meeting.
Getting the feedback not only helps with short-term plans, but helps the city develop the park with a vision, Marshall said.
“We wanted to apply for the tennis courts because they are an existing facility that is in grave disrepair, but at the same time we want to be strategic and plan out the community-wide vision for the park,” she said. “We don’t want to get into a situation down the road where our plans don’t fit together.”
Not everything wanted for the tennis courts is included in the current planning phase. Among the items slated for future phases are bleacher seating for tennis.
One thing that is included in phase 1, however, is the cornhole area.
“That’s an extremely low cost item, so we felt like it financially fit in, but it also provides a good interest provider for our community because it is something anyone and everyone can play quickly,” Marshall said.
The area designated for the basketball court and adjacent parking lot is roughly between the tennis court area and the city pool.
The planned site for the splash pad – which has been a part of the city’s recreation discussions since before the pool reopened in 2019 – would be located to the north of the pool in the space between the current parking area and the changing rooms.
Marshall said the layout was done with an eye to accessibility for everyone who would use the park, and was developed with volunteer input from a professional construction manager.
“We definitely took the feedback from all of the things that community members wanted to put in, and we worked closely with the construction manager,” she said.
“We wanted it to be accessible to everyone. It was a considerable amount of work laying it out, thinking it through and showing it to people.”
Having a plan in place won’t just help the current grant, and as funds become available for different projects one phase of development slated for the future may be able to happen at a different time, Marshall said.
“We don’t have to have money for the entire park to make progress,” she said. “We can piece them out. We can apply for this grant and lots of other grants, too.”
And for those who have ideas about the park, the door isn’t closed.
“I want to encourage the community, if they have different visions or different ideas, we are definitely open to discussing this park or any other park,” Marshall said.