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Market likely to open in 2012

By Wayne Bryan

This article was published August 11, 2011 at 3:22 a.m.

— A group of Clark County residents are working to establish a farmers and artisans market in Arkadelphia that would attract customers looking for locally grown produce and handmade items.

The core of the group trying to organize the market is made of members of the third Leadership Clark County Class, a nine-month program sponsored by the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance to prepare members of the community to take leading roles in the development of the county.

“Each class chooses a project, and the idea for a farmers market in Arkadelphia came from the Clark County Strategic Plan,” said Brooke Gregory of Southern Bancorp and a member of the class.

“We have seen a lot of support for the idea. We have a Facebook page called Support for the Clark County Market, and more than 450 people have signed on to the site.” While the class ended in May, the members have carried on the project with a town meeting in June and a site-selection process.

Supporters of the project hope to locate the market on city-owned land.

“No. 1 on our list is Central Park between the two (college) campuses,” said Kelly Massey of the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Henderson State University, another member of the class.

Central Park is between 10th and Eighth streets between the Henderson campus and Ouachita Baptist University, north of downtown.

“ We lo oke d for a site downtown, and at another city-owned location along the river, but it was on the flood plain, so we could not build anything there,” Massey said. “[The street in front of the park] has the second-highest traffic count in the city, so it could attract a lot of attention.”

Gregory said the market project is planned in two phases.

“We will start with a tents and tailgate type of market for the farmers and artists,” she said. “Later when we have established a board with a market manager, we will be looking to fund a structure.”

Gregory said the group would like to have a pavilion similar to the markets in Hot Springs and Bryant.

The supporters of the proposed Arkadelphia market have said the structure could be used for reunions and other events, including weddings.

The group is confident that a farmers market would be a success in Clark County.

“Some farmers have stands on Pine Street selling their produce, and others set up on the way to DeGray Lake,” Massey said. “So I think there is a real interest for the market from people who want to buy fresh, local produce and from artisans who make their own goods by hand.

The group has met with farmers and local artists, asking them to make commitments to bring their products to the market. Massey said the group hopes some of the farmers who take part in the farmers market in Hot Springs will also bring their products to Clark County.

While the group would like to see the market open before the end of the harvest season, Massey said the market might open next spring.

“I don’t think it would work to start in 100-degree weather, so it’s likely it will be next season,” he said.

Arkadelphia City Manager Jimmy Bolt said city officials look forward to seeing the final plans for a market.

“We don’t have anything to consider yet, but I support the idea, and the [city’s directors] do as well,” Bolt said. “We hope to have it on the agenda at the board meeting on Aug. 27.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes, Pages 55 on 08/11/2011

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