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Conway Parks report card

Posted: March 1, 2014 - 7:16pm
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COURTNEY SPRADLIN STAFF PHOTO  The playground at Laurel Park.
COURTNEY SPRADLIN STAFF PHOTO The playground at Laurel Park.

The weather’s getting warmer and people are starting to get themselves and their kids outside, which usually means “going to the park.” So we took some time last week to take a good look at Conway’s parks, and we’re going to tell you about it.

Conway has nine city parks with playgrounds, and we’ve assigned each an “A” through “F” grade on the criteria of cleanliness, child safety, aesthetics and overall quality.

Two things to get out of the way: First, each of the parks was well-maintained when we visited. There are the inevitable cigarette butts and occasional doggy leavings — though not as many as we’d suspected and feared — but none of the parks could fairly be called neglected when we were there.

Second, today’s feature is, in several ways, an opinion piece. While the opinions expressed here are, as always, well-reasoned and insightful, we invite other views and friendly discussion in person, through our social media or at thecabin.net. We base child safety mostly on how likely it would be that a child could wander out of the park or into a street, and generally how easy it is to keep an eye on them. The parks are listed in no particular order.

 

Fifth Avenue Park.

Fifth Avenue Park sometimes gets overlooked by people who don’t live on the east end of town, but it’s quite nice. The entire park is fenced, which is a very good thing for people with small children they don’t want to lose, and the playground equipment is modern and in good shape. We did have to count off for graffiti, though most of it is good-natured (we thought “One Direction Rules” and “U People R Dorks 5-8-13” even had some charm).

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: A

Playground: B

Aesthetics: B

Overall Quality: B

 

Gatlin Park.

The city’s parks and rec. website lists this one as 13 acres, which might be stretching it a bit by including a lot of land that’s maybe better understood to visitors, if not land survey crews, as Tucker Creek Walking/Bike Trail land. That said, its relationship to the creek and walking trail add value to what already is a pretty nice park. The playground is nice, with some more challenging climbing features and good-n-steep slides, and who doesn’t like watching the minnows, turtles, perch and occasional snake, muskrat or tiny bass do their thing in the creek? However, the steep creekbank might invite a tumble and a closer look at our underwater friends for younger kids. We counted off on cleanliness, because there was more than the usual amount of cigarette butt and general bric-a-brac trash about, not counting the plastic bags and whatnot in the creek that we realize is going to be hard to avoid.

 

Cleanliness: B

Child Safety: B

Playground: A

Aesthetics: A

Overall Quality: A

 

Pine Street Park:

At a mere half-acre or so, this one is small, but well-made. It was exceptionally clean when we were there, which we hope doesn’t mean that nobody ever goes to it. It’s not a great “city park,” but it is a very good neighborhood park. Long story short, it could be a lot worse — and indeed it will be, because our next stop is Airport Park.

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: B

Playground: B

Aesthetics: B

Overall Quality: B

 

 

Airport Park.

Oh, dear. First of all, the softball field is okay and the dugouts are serviceable. But the playground is an afterthought. Worse still, a small child wandering to the north will walk into somebody’s backyard and, while we’re sure they’re good people, that’s just not ideal — but it’s better than what would happen if they head south to chase down a ball or Frisbee, because the park’s grass ends exactly where 6th Street begins. This street is increasingly used as a busy east-west corridor, and having no fence to prevent what looks to us like a foreseeable tragedy is hard to excuse. It’s better than no park at all, but the city can do better.

 

Cleanliness:B

Child Safety: F

Playground: D

Aesthetics: D

Overall Quality: D

 

Laurel Park.

Laurel Park is, for most people, the city’s flagship traditional park. It’s where you’ll see people playing Frisbee or having youth football or baseball/softball practice — with varying degrees of formality — jogging along the fine gravel paths, or just tying up a hammock or spreading out a blanket and relaxing with a book. It also does duty as the city’s dog park until we get a proper one way out by the Don Owen Sports Complex — at which point Laurel Park will continue to do duty as a dog park. It’s also probably the city’s most-used park, and more people means more trash. It wasn’t bad when we went, but there were a lot of cigarette butts and miscellaneous rubbish strewn about. The park is large enough that there’s a lot of room between the playground and any streets, so child safety is good. There are trees to climb, squirrels a-plenty, and the vaguely mysterious concrete-columned but roofless stage that’s known locally as “the Ruins” to contemplate. The playground is described as “state of the art” on the city’s parks and rec. website, which was probably a true statement when it was written, but today it’s starting to show its age. The wood peaked roofs of the main playground structure are getting a little ratty and the spiral slide’s been busted at the bottom for at least three years.

 

Cleanliness: B

Child Safety: A

Playground: C

Aesthetics: A

Overall Quality: A

 

Bainbridge Park.

This one is off the Tucker Creek Walking/Bike Trail, which adds points. It’s at the end of a residential road, so there’s no traffic to worry about, and it’s got a nice pavilion and a basketball court. The Conway parks and rec. website says there’s a “small playground with a sea-saw and 3 seat swing set.” We’re just going to have to agree to disagree with that one, because other than the basketball courts and a fanciful red table and chair sculpture for kids to climb on there’s no “playground” at all.

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: B

Playground: D

Aesthetics: A

Overall Quality: B

 

Curtis Walker Park.

We were impressed by this one. It’s mainly thought of as baseball park and home to the Conway Noon Optimists Little League Football Field, but it’s a nice place to let small kids run around. For bigger kids, there’s what parents may remember from their youth as a proper swingset, meaning that it’s tall enough to really get you moving. That’s about all there is as far as the playground goes, so there’s lots of room for improvement — but around here we really, really like a nice tall swingset. It’s also well off the road and fenced, so you can let the kids run around without too much worry. Another thing to keep in mind is that this one’s about to get better, with plans in place to build a special-needs baseball field and a new playground. There’s a brand-new bathroom building, but when we visited it was locked.

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: A

Playground: C

Aesthetics: B

Overall Quality: B

 

City of Colleges Park.

Part of the city’s promise to build a softball park to the same standard as its baseball park, this one is a nice place to visit. The playground is a favorite for small kids, and it’s maintained to a high standard. When we visited a parks employee was spreading new wood chips, and the park and bathrooms were very clean. It’s hard to find fault with this one.

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: A

Playground: A

Aesthetics: A

Overall Quality: A

 

 

Beaverfork Lake Park.

Our favorite. There’s a lot to do, and on most nice days a lot going on. Like Laurel Park, you’ll see people relaxing and reading in hammocks or on the beach, swimming, playing Frisbee Golf on the course, birdwatching (lots of Herons and one ever-present big white farm duck) or flying model airplanes — and some people out there can fly them very well. The swimming area was closed a few years ago because a septic tank problem at the park was letting a little too much “bacteria” into the lake right at the beach, but that’s been addressed and the swimming area is open. The playgrounds are great and the city’s doing a good job of keeping everything clean.

 

Cleanliness: A

Child Safety: B

Playground: A

Aesthetics: A

Overall Quality: A

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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Raving Bear
631
Points
Raving Bear 03/02/14 - 02:36 pm
5
0
How much could our parks be

How much could our parks be if we had not wasted so much money on a giant defective dunce cap?

ucantbserious
30309
Points
ucantbserious 03/06/14 - 05:29 pm
5
0
True!

How many of the issues listed above could have been remedied with $130k? Probably all of them with extra left over.

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