What a difference a month makes.
At their regular monthly meeting on January 25, members of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission learned about several outstanding projects that have been approved for funding in 2021, through the El Dorado Works Tax Initiative.
One such project involved paving the recreational pathway that surrounds the Municipal Lions Club Golf Course, the Union County Fairgrounds and the El Dorado School District football fields.
A lawsuit notice had been issued months earlier for contractor Smackover Paving Company, and city crews had long since completed repairs to eroded areas and deep ruts along the trail.
Yet due to weather-related delays, other city projects, and obstructions in the nation’s supply chain, work on the trail had not begun by Jan. 25.
Now, when the commissioners gather for their February meeting, they can discuss a finished product.
On February 7, the EPPC informed the public that the trail would be closed until February 11 when paving began.
The job was finished a day ahead of schedule and since the reopening of the freshly blackened trail, users – especially regulars – have been singing its praises.
“It’s fabulous! The old trail was narrower, sunken and not flat,” said Sherrel Johnson, former president and CEO of the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce.
“The new track is wider and smoother. Another thing is when you run into people on the trail or you walk faster and have to pass, you have more space,” Johnson added.
She said she tried the new trail in cool 63-degree weather on Feb. 11, the work day that was originally supposed to be over.
Parks and Playgrounds Commissioner Karen Hicks said she had heard similar comments, noting that she had recently spoken to a biker who said he enjoyed the transition from a bumpier segment of an off-road extension to the smoother surface of the black roof.
Last month Commissioner David Hurst said he received daily inquiries about the status of the paving project – a testament to the heavy use of the trail.
The 2.25 mile trail has been a popular recreation spot for walkers, runners and cyclists since it opened in 2012.
The surface was first chip sealed and Robert Edmonds, director of public works, said a grout sealer, a process that uses a cold paving mix, was then applied.
Over the years, the slurry began to give way to ruts, dips, and erosion, making the trail uneven in places and posing safety hazards for users.
Edmonds said with asphalt, the 10-foot path feels wider and the black roof is better equipped to accommodate emergency vehicles.
At an El Dorado City Council meeting on February 10, council member Willie McGhee requested that the trail follow Bart Reed, a retired history teacher and El Dorado school district bus driver. died last November at the age of 72.
McGhee said Reed was an avid user of the trail and regularly made suggestions on how to improve it, including adding more benches.
The trail upgrade is one of several parks and recreation projects in the city that the El Dorado Board of Works and El Dorado City Council approved funding for last year.
The one-cent El Dorado Works Levy is an initiative that funds economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality of life projects.
The Parks and Playgrounds Commissioners presented three funding envelopes which included $160,000 for the Recreational Trail and:
• A total of $26,740 for a motorized lawn sweeper ($16,346) for the Lions Club Municipal Golf Course (LCMGC); $2,417 for five park-style charcoal barbecues to be placed in Neel, Mattocks, Mellor, Mosby and Old City parks; and $7,972 for the installation of two water fountains in Mitchell and Mosby parks.
• A total of $89,052 for a used driveway mower ($38,380) and two utility carts ($9,262 each) for LCMGC; $43,280 for the construction of two new basketball courts east of the existing Lions Club Park court, which is located at the entrance to the golf course.
• A total of $43,972 for public washrooms ($30,000) to service the new basketball courts at Lions Club Park and the existing recreational pathway; two new water fountains ($12,400), one of which will be installed on the north side of the recreational path and the other on the south side of the path near the new basketball courts; and $1,572 for a new picnic table, which will also be placed near the basketball courts.
The construction of the basketball courts has begun, as has the installation of the barbecues.
Today the EPPC is expected to hear an update on ongoing parks projects and plans to raze and replace the Mattocks Park swimming pool and pool house.
The swimming pool was built almost 70 years ago and in a state of deterioration.
The pool has been closed for two successive summers, 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the commissioners assessed the condition of the facility to determine what repairs would be needed to open the pool last summer, they decided to demolish the facility due to its poor condition.
The commission is exploring options and seeking public input to:
• A zero-access, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) pool with a section for four swimming lanes.
• A larger pool and a smaller pool for children.
• A splash-pad only.