Paragould Plans New Greenway
by Kimberely Blackburn
Delta Digital News Service
PARAGOULD – The Arkansas Highway Transportation Department recently approved a grant to partially fund the first leg of an urban greenway for the city of Paragould.
AHTD’s grant provides 80 percent of the approximately $580,000 project. Mayor Mike Gaskill and the City Council’s approval provides the remainder from the city’s reserve funds.
Greene County Future Fund‘s Kimberly Dale said the trail will begin at Rotary Softball Park, near the Sundale subdivision, and follow 8-mile Creek to Highway 49. Noting how the trail will connect the community, she said the project excites her.
“People my age and younger will move to a place for the quality-of-life amenities,” Dale said.
A Conservation Tools‘ guide lists many of the economic benefits hiking trails bring to a city. Benefits not only include attracting homebuyers, but also attracting businesses looking for top-quality employees.
After AHTD and the Army Corps of Engineers approve the design of the hiking trail, Gaskill said the city will bid the job out. He expects the construction to provide a boost to the local economy.
Plans from the Past
Gaskill first wanted a trail 19 years ago, when he became mayor of Paragould. When the city widened 8-mile Creek for drainage issues, leaders considered a walking path, but thought it impossible due to the bridges it must cross. Later they discovered a path could be built under the bridges to alleviate any safety concerns.
Members of the Future Fund originally targeted private donors to raise the remaining funds, but Gaskill said he wanted every citizen to be involved. He said providing the money from the city’s reserve fund will not alter the city’s budget, and no other department or project will lose funds due to this project.
Gaskill said officials annually strive to improve community safety for citizens to exercise. For example, officials began sidewalk improvements in downtown Paragould in 2015.
Future Green Spaces
Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon said he first thought of a green space behind the courthouse when houses still stood on the proposed site. Although an annex to the courthouse was suggested after the county tore those houses down, McMillon said he believes Greene County needed more green spaces.
Working through “Healthy, Active Arkansas,” an initiative started by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in October 2015, McMillon said he hopes to not only educate county employees about living a healthy lifestyle, but provide a space for them to stay active. McMillon said he believes such a green space will help lower insurance premiums as well.
McMillon said he hopes to build green spaces throughout Greene County. He said he encourages all those throughout the county with ideas to contact him.
Dale said the Future Fund remains open to any ideas about future green spaces in Paragould. She said they would love the opportunity to purchase the land for a space downtown. Yet, Bolen said right now there isn’t a space in downtown Paragould where the community can gather outside during events.
Dale said with Paragould being such a pretty city, she hopes this trail will attract many to the community. Future Fund member Ashley Bolen said Paragould’s founding fathers planned for the growth when planning the city. She said Paragould’s citizens enjoy a great quality of life.
“Paragould is a well-kept secret,” Bolen said.
You can find more information on becoming a member of the Greene County Future Fund here.