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Walker Park grows with surrounding community

Nature and development are currently colliding at Fayetteville’s Walker Park.

The park has offered community members in Fayetteville natural respite for nearly 75 years.

Visitors can now see it’s grown in that time. In fact, Walker Park is Fayetteville’s largest community park, and people take full advantage.

The city defines a community park as a green space in a neighborhood with multiple attractions and features.

On any sunny day, you can see kids darting through streams of water on the park’s splash pad, cyclists and runners cruising down the Razorback Greenway, or murals brightening once-plain basketball courts and concrete walls.

Park planning superintendent Ted Jack said the city has carefully planned and implemented Walker Park’s growth over the years. What’s more, the park is perpetually changing – the city is always looking to improve its green spaces.

The City of Fayetteville began a new master planning process for the park earlier this year, and Jack said planners didn’t start from scratch.

“So when you have a park that’s old like this, as you go along, sometimes you get to a point where you need to do another master plan because things change,” Jack said. “You know, society changes at all. There’s just all kinds of changes. So you need to replan.”

Jack said they reached that point roughly a year and a half ago.

“And it was to take a comprehensive look at the park, you know, there’s been a tremendous amount of change around the park,” Jack said. “Things going on with the housing is really undergoing change. So a lot of demographic changes in the city. And this is one of the five community parks that we have. The community parks are the ones where we really get a lot of use and so forth-- are usually close to home and have a lot of different things people can do. So you want to make sure you get these parks planned well, so they bring maximum benefit.”

Jack said community members had a fair say in what work will be done. The city held three different public meetings so citizens could have influence over their park’s future before the city would even begin implementing the official master plan.

“The first one was kind of a brainstorming meeting,” he said, “it was come tell us the kinds of things you’d like to see in the park, and let’s kind of brainstorm ideas together.”

Park planners and private consultants generated two potential master plans for Walker Park after brainstorming with the community. Then, they submitted those for community feedback. People had a chance to propose the most important attractions and features they wanted to see.

Without that public input and that public understanding, it’d be easy for you to kind of miss the target— you might not aim quite as well as you can with all that public feedback.
Ted Jack, Park Planning Superintendent

Many different additions were proposed due to the park’s large size. Popular suggestions included adding a dog park, improving the skatepark and restoring the Spout Spring Branch tributary waterway. Planners had meetings with the area’s unhoused population in order to learn how to best serve their needs.

The official Walker Park Master Plan.
City of Fayetteville
The official Walker Park Master Plan.

Jack said this process is standard and necessary to maximize what communities gain from their local green spaces.

“You really need to understand what the community wants,” Jack said. “And think about it, not just from this park’s perspective, but how all the pieces of the other parks fit together. So without that public input and that public understanding, it’d be easy for you to kind of miss the target— you might not aim quite as well as you can with all that public feedback.” 

Joshua Jowers was out at Walker Park practicing his putts at the park’s disc golf course. He’s a member of the University of Arkansas Disc Golf Club team, and he said he often finds himself here just to practice.

He said, over the past few months, the city has already improved the course exponentially:

“The main thing is they’ve cleared out a lot of the trees out there so the course is just a lot more fun to play and it’s a lot easier to keep track of the discs,” Jowers said.

According to the City of Fayetteville, funding for developments at Walker Park comes from the Park Improvement Bond, which was approved by Fayetteville residents in early 2019.

The city released its officially adopted Master Plan on Sept. 6, and you can view it now by visiting the City of Fayetteville’s website.

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Jack Travis is a reporter for <i>Ozarks at Large</i>.<br/>
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