FORT SMITH — Construction will begin soon on a park along the Arkansas River that supporters say will have a unique distinction.
City directors voted Tuesday to enter into a contract not to exceed $600,000 with American Ramp Co. of Joplin to build Riverfront Drive Skate and Bike Park, which will combine skating and bicycling amenities.
“There are numerous bicycle parks by themselves and skate parks by themselves, but this is the only one that we’re aware of in the United States that puts both amenities together,” park project organizer Bobby Aldridge told city directors Tuesday.
Money for the construction will be provided by private donors. At the project kickoff announcement in October, First National Bank of Fort Smith President Sam Sicard and the bank donated $100,000 toward the park’s development. Other donors were Bill Hanna of Hanna Oil and Gas Co. and Steve Clark of Propak Logistics Inc., Aldridge said.
The city partnered with the private donors and voted in January to buy the 3.5 acres for the park from the U.S. Marshals Museum for $200,000. They voted earlier this month to hire Silco Construction Inc. of Waldron for more than $466,500 to build the 54-space parking lot and put in sidewalks, benches, water service, a playground, lighting and landscaping.
Planners expect to open the park Memorial Day weekend.
Aldridge said Sicard initiated the idea when he expressed a desire to develop along the river a pump track — where riders use mounds and turns to create inertia to propel themselves around a track — and the concept for the park grew from there.
Sicard said in October that he wanted the park to be unique, and to become a destination for skaters and bicyclists from across the country.
City Director Tracy Pennartz said she was pleased that the park was designed to accommodate different skill levels and multiple age groups, especially younger children.
City Parks and Recreation Director Doug Reinert said he is excited that construction is about to begin.
“I’m glad we’re moving forward with the project, and I think it will be a nice amenity for the riverfront,” he said.
The Riverfront Drive Skate and Bike Park, which Aldridge said may get a more marketable name later, will consist of three sections designed to be low-maintenance. The first will be a bicycle playground, a precast concrete pump track for beginning and younger cyclists. It will be designed to have oversized parking cones for a slalom, tunnels and rings to ride through and several child-friendly ladder bridges.
The playground section will be connected by a bridge to the bike skills area consisting of pump tracks, ladder bridges and other obstacle challenges, and will flow through the skate area. The bridge will also serve as a pedestrian observation point.
The skate park concept, American Ramp said in its proposal to the city, will include a variety of “street and transitional Shotcrete terrains.” It will have ledges, stairs and ramps, and skaters will be able to enter a snake run that increases in depth and leads to a bowl section with a variety of heights.
“This may be the first concept design that exists where a concrete pump track flows into and out of a snake run,” the company’s proposal said.
The skate and bike park is one of three parks department projects under development near the Arkansas River. The city is working on the last of three phases of the Greg Smith River Trail and could finish it next month, Reinert said.
The 1.2-mile leg extends the 5.8-mile trail from Williams Lane along Riverfront Drive to Fort Smith Park. Reinert said the contract calls for the section to be completed around March 4, but rain and other snags probably will push back the finishing date.
The trail, named after the late riverfront trailblazer, will stretch from Harry E. Kelley Park north along the river and on the river levee to Fort Smith Park at the north tip of the city.
Reinert said the city could be ready by the end of the year to begin work on the second phase of the soccer complex that is being developed on 51 acres of bottomland along Riverfront Drive.
The second phase, which is in the design stage, will consist of building a Miracle League baseball field for wheelchair-bound children, a playground, a splash pad and additional parking, he said.
The first phase consisted of dirt work that raised the fields above the flood plain, creating two soccer fields and parking. The complex will have nine soccer fields eventually, Reinert said.