Fort Smith Teens Disappointed In Changes To Water Park
Proposed changes to the Ben Geren Aquatics Center sparked a heated debate at Tuesday’s joint city-county meeting.
Students from Ramsey Junior High in Fort Smith attended the meeting to express their disappointment in the proposed changes. The new plans eliminate a diving well and lap lanes and shortens the length of the lazy river.
Michele Walker, a ninth grade English teacher at Ramsey, said the omitted features were the ones her students were most excited about. The students wrote letters and signed petitions to the city to encourage them to keep the initial plans.
Based on a 2009 proposal, the aquatics center was estimated to cost about $7.4 million to build. Recent calculations estimate the cost to come closer to $9.2 million.
Mike Alsup, Director of Fort Smith Parks, said when the new totals came in, the plans were scaled back to stay within the initial budget. He said the cost of supplies and materials have increased “substantially” since the initial proposal.
Alsup says the city cannot invest any more money that the $4 million bond issue previously passed by voters. If the initial plans for the water park are approved, Sebastian County will have to fund the difference.
The teachers from Ramsey say this has been an invaluable experience for their students.
“Some of these kids have even expressed a desire now to enter politics,” said Walker.
The discussion will continue at the next quorum court meeting scheduled on Feb. 19. The teachers expect their students will attend again to show their support for the original plan.
“They now realize that they have the power to create changes in the world,” said Leigh Merry, ninth grade civics teacher at Ramsey.