Move to Morrilton opens doors for Parks and Recreation

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published February 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 1, 2013 at 8:26 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Larry Tarrant is the new director of the Morrilton Parks and Recreation Department. Tarrant left a position as Cabot's parks and recreations director after 11 years.

Larry Tarrant, Morrilton’s new parks and recreation director, found a passion for people and community during his 11 years as Cabot’s parks and recreation director.

Tarrant got his start in the working world in 1986 as a district manager for Total Petroleum. The Osceola native was responsible for convenience stores and truck stops in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

He worked for the petroleum company for 14 years.

“I did a lot of traveling with the company and got transferred to the Little Rock/central-Arkansas area. That’s how I ended up in Cabot,” he said.

While in Cabot, he saw an old Tastee Freez restaurant for sale, and it piqued his interest.

“I always wanted my own business, and I ended up leaving Total and bought the restaurant,” Tarrant said.

While running the Tastee Freez,

Tarrant spent his free time coaching basketball, football and baseball in Cabot community leagues.

“[The Parks and Recreation] Department approached me about going to work for them,” Tarrant said. “I absolutely love it. It’s like a dream job because I love sports.”

Tarrant’s main concern with his work in parks and recreation has been the benefit and well-being of the children in his community.

“I love working with kids, teaching kids,” Tarrant said. “When it comes to the programs I run, I do what’s best for the kids.”

Community involvement has become another driving factor in Tarrant’s work with the city of Cabot and is part of what he’s looking forward to in his director position in Morrilton.

“I just love being around people and sports,” Tarrant said. “I’m so excited about going to Morrilton and the

challenge I have ahead of me. I’m ready to get out in the community and meet people.”

In his 11 years with the Cabot Parks and Recreation Department, Tarrant has not put anything into place by himself.

“The main thing I did when I took over [at Cabot] was build a good team,” Tarrant said. “When you hear me talk about what I’ve accomplished, I’ll say ‘we’ because it takes a team.”

Not only has Tarrant played a leading role in building and improving parks in the city of Cabot, he’s most proud of some of the work he’s done within the department.

“The No. 1 thing I’m really proud of is our finances,” Tarrant said. “We’ve really turned that around from when I took over. I’m leaving this place in a lot better shape than it was when [I started].”

The Cabot Community Pond is a significant project that Tarrant and his team put into place, and Tarrant said he is proud of the project.

“It was just a fishing pond, and there was nothing on it, just a pond,” Tarrant said. “For the last year or so, we put a walking track around the pond, [along] with two big bridges and playground equipment.”

Tarrant said pavilions and an 18-hole disc-golf course have also been added. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks the pond with fish for the city.

In his 11 years with the Cabot parks department, Tarrant has seen the city go through extensive growth in both population and in parks that have been built.

“When we moved here, there was like 7,000 people here, and now there’s like 20,000,” Tarrant said.

About three years ago, Tarrant said, he went into the community and asked what the people thought it needed. He started a plan for the parks department because he said the city didn’t really have a plan for its parks.

“We’ve got a lot of kids. I think we have one of the largest school districts in the state of Arkansas,” Tarrant said. “A lot of [Cabot’s] parks, we’ve outgrown.”

Tarrant put a year-round swim team into place for the children of Cabot.

“It started with maybe 15 kids, and during the summer we have close to 100,” Tarrant said.

Part of Tarrant’s plan for the city includes a nine-field, state-of-the-art baseball complex and a water park.

“It’s not just a swimming pool; it’s a water park that will hold 800 people [and have] a lazy river,” Tarrant said.

The plan also includes an addition to the community center, more softball fields and another pond, complete with a pavilion, playground and fishing pier.

Tarrant and the Parks and Recreation Department of Cabot have put together the plan, which has been approved by the city, and he said it will go to a special election on April 9, when the city will vote to extend a 1-cent tax to fund the project.

Although Tarrant will be in his new position at Morrilton by the time the plan is put into place, he looks forward to his new job.

Tarrant’s small-town roots drew him to the Morrilton parks and recreation director position. Although Tarrant said he will miss his friends and the community of Cabot, he looks forward to the new chapter of his life in Morrilton.

“I grew up in Osceola, which is about the same size as Morrilton,” Tarrant said. “I’m excited about running the parks and getting involved in the community there.”

Tarrant has high expectations for his new job.

“Hopefully, I can bring in some good ideas. I’ve been with Cabot for 11 years, and we’ve made a lot of improvements in the parks and recreation department here, and hopefully, I can carry that on to Morrilton.”

Tarrant’s last day as Cabot’s parks director was Thursday, and he will embark on his new adventure Monday. He said the move will be bittersweet.

“I’m excited about my new adventure,” Tarrant said. “This time in my life, I needed a new challenge.”

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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