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Grant for City Park designed to improve accessibility

by Annette Beard | May 24, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Annette Beard/Pea Ridge TIMES The Pea Ridge City Park has provided space for playing on playground equipment, walks, sporting practices and events and even been the site of the Pea Ridge Mule Jump over the years.

Thanks to an $80,000 grant, the Pea Ridge City Park will get a face lift making it more accessible to more people.

The grant from Project for Public Spaces, Social Impact Partnerships, in conjunction with the Walton Family Foundation, will fund updates to the park to create gathering spaces for all ages and abilities and from diverse backgrounds so we can "maximize use of the park," according to city planning director Jessica Grady.

Workshops will be held to seek input from community members about the needs and the vision for the park.

"The 12-acre Pea Ridge City Park is one of the only municipal parks in Pea Ridge, a city of 6,500 people. Featuring a playground and splash pad, event pavilion, public restrooms, and sports facilities, the park is a destination for athletic and community events. Yet this key public space has even more potential to invite a wider range of ages and abilities," according to the information posted on the Project for Public Spaces web site.

"Together with the City of Pea Ridge, Project for Public Spaces will lead community engagement sessions to discover how this public space can better serve more people. We'll explore ways of bringing in visitors who are currently left out, including younger kids, teens, and older adults. Some early ideas for improvements include more diversified programming, new gathering spaces, and movement opportunities for all abilities. With the support of a Community Placemaking Grant, Pea Ridge City Park can become a welcoming public space promoting inclusion and health-promoting social interactions."

Grady said that whereas many grants involve sharing financial responsibility such as with 80/20 grants, this one is a "direct grant" to help the park be "more inclusive."

"Right now, we've got really good structure," she said, adding that she wants to see a space for teens, for young children and for the aging population as well as for people with limited mobility.

"Northwest Arkansas has two parks that are for all ages and abilities," Grady said, adding that "We would like to be the third."

She said Citizens Park Playground in Bentonville and Murphy Park in Springdale are the only two that are all-inclusive.

Interestingly, Grady, whose children attended Rogers schools, grew up visiting the Pea Ridge City Park as her parents lived in Pea Ridge. She said she remembers watching her children play here and noticed that there were limitations for children with special needs and for elderly persons who had trouble with mobility. She said that, along with comments made by area residents on social media, brought her attention to the need.

She said updated equipment, a paved walkway, playground equipment reachable for all are just a few of the possible changes.

"We would like to see better connectivity in between the different components," she said. "We're going to focus on the shaded area for right now -- from the pavilions to the north."

"We are very excited about this," Grady said, explaining that she applied for the grant about two and a half months ago, made it through round one and was called in for individual interviews about two weeks ago.

"This is a great opportunity for families who have to use inclusive parks! We serve a large portion of this section of Benton County, not just Pea Ridge," she said. "There are many people who come through here. This is an opportunity for us to expand our community interaction."

Grady said information about the workshops will be released as soon as dates are scheduled. She said it is essential for people to communicate about their needs and desires for the park with city officials.

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