Parks OKs new fee structure for Leatherwood fields

Pending an OK from city attorney Forrest Jacobi, the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission has approved a new fee structure for the reservation of fields at Lake Leatherwood Sports Complex.

At its regular monthly meeting held Tuesday, May 21, the commission voted 4-0 to approve a field use permit for those who want to guarantee reservations to use the fields.

“You could go down there, like 20 people to go play kickball, and you could go play without doing this,” parks director Sam Dudley told commissioners. “But, if you want to ensure that you are going to have the field and no one’s going to bother you.”

The fee system approved was first discussed by commissioners at a May 7 workshop and includes a $20 fee per day, per field for up to four hours. There will be an additional $15 fee to use the lights, according to Dudley.

“This isn’t to say you couldn’t take the risk and use the field without going through all this,” he said. “You just wouldn’t have the authority to tell someone to leave if they showed up and wanted to use the field for something else.”

Dudley said it came to his attention recently that there wasn’t an organized system for reserving the fields.

“I think sort of what happened this year was, two years ago, the high school soccer team stopped using the soccer fields out at Leatherwood because they renovated their track,” Dudley said at the May 7 workshop. “And then this year, they didn’t get something prepared, something happened anyway, and they said, ‘hey, can we use y’all’s soccer field?’ And I was like ‘of course.’

“And it made me realize we don’t really have any system at all for like reserving the fields. So, most of what this is all about is just making sure that we have some documentation saying this group is going to use the fields for this long for this schedule. It really has nothing to do with us making a profit off anything. It’s like minimal amounts of money we’re talking here, but we do have a pretty big overhead in terms of maintenance of the ball fields.”

“There’s nothing in here unreasonable,” commission chair Mark Ingram said at the May 7 workshop. “It’s not outlandish. If anybody wants to reserve the space where other people can’t be there and they have complete control, then it’s a minimal fee, first of all. Second of all, if they require lights and people turn on lights and turn off lights, it’s a minimal thing for a league.

“If it’s a soccer team that’s a local team that’s just getting together, we’re not trying to make money off of them. Nobody here wants to do that. That’s just not what’s really happening.

The field use permit will also include a 10 percent “remittance requirement for any goods sold from the concession stand,” Dudley said.

“If the group or event decides to use it,” he said. “We feel that’s pretty fair given we pay for the utilities and upkeep of the structure.”

“This is not really about fees,” Ingram said. “This is about if you come in here and you use the concession stand, you leave it the way you found it, you take your trash with you or at least put it in a dumpster, right? You clean it, you lock it. You make sure it’s locked back. …You don’t park in the grass on the soccer fields, you don’t leave your equipment laying all over everywhere for the next people that come in there and you don’t leave it for season after season after season, where somebody has to store it and take care of it for you.

“That’s basically what this is. I mean, if you read the whole thing, that’s basically what it is.”

If the form gets Jacobi’s approval it will be posted at eurekaparks. com/sports, Dudley said.

“… We’ll post the form on our website and include a calendar of events so people can see the availability,” he said. “We’re hoping that by having a clear and affordable pathway to reserve the field, we may get more groups involved.

“I’d love to see more recreational sports happening down there, but I think people are a little confused about the process. Because there hasn’t been one.”

Non-profit, volunteer- based groups” such as Eureka Springs Soccer Club won’t be affected by the new fee structure, Dudley said.


The commission also approved changing the housekeeper position for the cabins at Lake Leatherwood from a part-time role to a full-time role with benefits.

“We offered our housekeeper a fulltime position at the beginning of the year and she didn’t want it,” Dudley told the commission. “However, according to state law, if you work over a certain amount of hours in a 365-day period you kind of have to go full time.”

Any work more than 30 hours a week is considered full time, Dudley said.

“This will give her some flexibility with the summertime when it gets busy,” he said. “… I think she deserved that. She works really hard and is there all the time.”

In his director’s report, Dudley said his team is gearing up for a busy Memorial Day weekend and highlighted the work done on various parks around the city, highlighting Basin Spring Park improvements.

“I think we’re done,” Dudley said of Basin Spring Park, which now has refurbished benches and new hanging plant baskets to go along with sets of new steps off Spring Street and to the bandshell, along with various areas receiving a fresh coat of paint.

A small ceremony is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the park to recognize those who helped in getting the work completed, Dudley said.

“We’re going to make a list of all the things we did and just say thank you,” he said.

Ingram said the work at Basin Spring Park was “impressive.”

“We just drove by it and I was like ‘wow,’ ” he said. “Good job.”

The transition to a new reservation system for rentals at Lake Leatherwood Park is complete, Dudley said, adding that rentals are going well so far this year.

“We’re probably about 50 percent, or upper 40s as far as our projections for the year for cabins and bait shop sales and summer hasn’t even started. So, it’s pretty amazing. We’re doing really well down there and the lake looks fantastic. The lake looks clean and like you actually want to be in it.”

Dudley added that Lake Leatherwood Park needs to hire two part-time park attendants.

“This is a seasonal, part-time job,” he said. “It’s pretty fun and pretty good pay.”

ADDRESSING CONCERNS Ingram spent a portion near the end of the meeting addressing everything the parks department has done recently working with various partners after some recent criticisms, pointing out some comments on Facebook.

“There are a million things we would do if we had the money,” he said. “But go around and look at this town right now. In the last year you can see all the improvements to the dog park, you see the new kiosks, you see our new maps, you see the dam open, Basin Park improvements. I could just go on and on and on. That’s done with being really smart, figuring out who are partners are, who can help us, and how we can get that done. Sam has done an incredible job of bringing in people … like the Preservation [Society] people, the Main Street people, the trails committee, people doing things and working in partnerships, like the CAPC, all the people working together to improve this on a very shoestring budget.

“So, when I hear of some of the negative things how they don’t do this or they don’t do that, just remember we have a limited budget and we’re doing as much as we possibly can with every dollar we have and we’re trying our best to use it wisely and get the most benefit for the most people.”

Moments later, Ingram continued and said it’s important for residents to realize that most of the funding the parks department gets comes from sales tax.

“People have made comments about tourists,” Ingram said. “Well, that’s really where a lot of our tax dollars come from, the tourists paying sales tax. We can’t ignore that or the lodging. They come and spend money on the camping and at the bait shop. … That’s tourists coming in and we’re grateful for them. That’s where our funding comes from. Our property tax payers do not pay for the parks. It’s sales tax. It’s important for people to really understand that.

“… We are open to suggestions. We are open to anybody who thinks something could be improved. You don’t have to go on Facebook and yell at us. You can actually call the parks office and tell somebody. Talk to any of the commissioners if you have something you want done. We’re happy to listen and if we can do it, we will try, if it’s the right thing for everybody. Just understand that everybody is doing the best they can.”