Parks employees have met with the city's project manager to scout potential sites for the bond-funded capital improvement projects, which include the splash park and improvements to Townsend and MLK parks.

Parks employees have met with the city’s project manager to scout potential sites for the bond-funded capital improvement projects, which include the splash park and improvements to Townsend and MLK parks.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker gave commissioners an update on the projects at their monthly meeting Tuesday. Parker said she took ETC Engineers Inc. President Mizan Rahman on an in-person tour of the physical locations of each project, and he was expected to come back to Parker with his recommendations on Thursday so that the department can be prepared to move forward on the projects in the near future.

Included in the first round of bond projects for the parks department are:

• Constructing a splash park, planned for the western shore of Lake Saracen near West Pullen Street, estimated at $400,000, with $238,280 coming from grants

• Improving the lighting at the three baseball fields at Townsend Park, estimated at $120,000, with $90,000 coming from grants

• Constructing a restroom and concession stand at Townsend Park, estimated at $150,000

• Constructing restrooms at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, estimated at $120,000

• And completing phase III and IV of the Lake Saracen Walking Trail project to bring the trail along the western side of the lake and construct a fishing pier at Brumps Bayou, estimated at $500,000, with $400,000 coming from multiple grants.

“We have been having a lot of meetings on our bond projects,” Parker said, “and we are going to have a lot of projects we’re going to start working on this spring, because we’ve got several projects on the trail, we’re going to finish up phase III (the bridge area behind University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff chancellor’s house on the northwest corner of the lake), we’re going to build the fishing pier, which is from King Street to Brumps Bayou — we’ll get started on that.”

The five-eighths-cent sales tax increase and accompanying bond issues were approved by voters in February 2011. The tax went into effect in July, and the first round of bonds issued in October included all of the proposed parks department projects, with the exception of the planned multipurpose recreational center, which still has a couple of years of planning and fundraising ahead of it before construction can begin, city officials have said. After issuing the bonds, the city has three years to complete the projects.

The total amount of bonds issued for the parks department in October 2011 was $959,715. The parks department received word in December that the state has granted their Outdoor Recreation Grants application for 50-50 matching funds, including $225,000 in matching funds for the bond projects and $416,715 total.

The parks department has already purchased all of the equipment that was part of the sales tax and bond initiatives:

• Boom mower and tractor for $73,423

• Three zero-turn mowers for a total of $32,250

• Two 16-inch tandem axle trailers for a total of $9,613

• A batwing and tractor for $35,819

• A mid-duty work vehicle for $10,430

• And an automotive and equipment lift for $4,610

And a $6,000 bid to build overhangs to cover the equipment at the Jaycee golf course and maintenance building has been awarded to the Department of Corrections through its prisoner work program, also to be paid for out of the bond money.

The other projects that the department gained funding for in December through the Outdoor Recreation Grant are: $70,000 for restrooms on the western side of Lake Saracen, $5,232 for a playground at Lake Saracen, $726 for sidewalks at Lake Saracen and $12,477 for a playground at Townsend Park.