JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -
As Jonesboro grows, so does the demand for parks.
Wixson Huffstetler, the city parks director, admits the city is behind on pools, aquatic centers and parks.
"As the city grows, the quality of life is a must that we have to keep for citizens to keep coming to Jonesboro and move here," Huffstetler said.
Huffstetler said the city hopes to add more of these facilities particularly in the northeast and southwest parts of Jonesboro.
He said the parks department also hopes to make Craighead Forest Park swimmable again within the next several years.
"It's a great resource that we have,” Huffstetler said. “We're very proud to say that it's a city-owned park and not a state-owned park as big as it is so we have a lot of plans for Craighead Forest Park. It's just going to take time and money to develop it."
Huffstetler said he will not know how much these projects will cost the city until he meets with architects.
However, another possible project does have a dollar amount: $30 to $50 million.
“A water park,” Huffstetler said. “We know that's what everybody wants here. Yes, we can probably build the water park through different funds that we can tap into, but the question is how do we maintain it and how do we operate it with a separate fund.”
The city's 2015 and 2016 budgets will be tight the next two years because a sales tax will expire at the end of this year. However, Huffstetler said it is too early to tell if the water park would need taxpayer dollars.
"We may have to take this to people and say, 'Hey, if this is what you want, we're going to have to vote to do something to make it happen,'" Huffstetler said.
The parks department is still in the early planning stages for the water park: getting designs drawn and touring other water parks in the state and beyond.
"I want it to be a destination for people not just in Jonesboro but an attraction to get people to Jonesboro for our economic development here,” Huffstetler said. “I want it to be where they come and stay the weekend just so they can go to the water park.”
Huffstetler said the city has to invest in parks like this to enhance Jonesboro's quality of life.
"I want to see it continue to grow in the right way," Huffstetler said. "I want people when they come to Jonesboro to want to stay here."
Huffstetler will tour a brand new water park in Pine Bluff in several weeks.
He said there are current projects that should also make some parks more accessible. The city's Miracle League field is set to open this year and the old YMCA building is in the first stages of a complete renovation.