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story.lead_photo.caption Emerald Park is shown in this 2012 file photo. - Photo by Michael Storey

Contract disagreements have quashed a proposed high-ropes course for North Little Rock's Emerald Park, city Parks and Recreation Director Terry Hartwick said.

Loco Ropes, based in Mountain View, had submitted the only bid by a March deadline to create a ropes course in Emerald Park that overlooks Big Rock Quarry Park adjacent to the Arkansas River.

A proposal by Loco Ropes had been approved in 2016 by the North Little Rock Parks Commission, before it was determined that the city had to open the project for bidding. A new contract with the city, delayed from April, could have gone before the Parks Commission at its monthly meeting today.

But Hartwick said Friday that Loco Ropes co-owners Judy and Bob Cox had recently notified him by letter that they wouldn't pursue the North Little Rock project.

"The ropes course is not going to happen," Hartwick said. "They've decided to stay where they are. It got tangled up in legal jargon and didn't come out the way they wanted, and they've withdrawn their bid."

[INTERACTIVE: Explore North Little Rock's Emerald Park in 360-degree photos]

When the bid by Loco Ropes was accepted in March, Hartwick said the project looked "like a go," with "very, very few things to work out." Hartwick had pushed for the project to add a fresh attraction to the city parks system.

"I'm very much disappointed," he said Friday. "I thought it would bring a lot more people to the park and for the use of the park. I thought it was a great idea. Maybe it took too long."

Hartwick said he hasn't given up on adding a recreational project in Emerald Park and has entered discussions about a possible mountain bike course.

Judy Cox said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that she and Bob Cox were also disappointed that the project couldn't happen.

"In the end, the needs of the two parties were just not coming together," she said. "For us to do this venture, it had to make sense for the business. We're just very, very sorry.

"We did not want to walk away from it," she said. "But, at the same time, we have to make some business decisions. We want to express our gratitude to Terry and [parks special projects director] Jeff [Caplinger] and the commission."

The original ropes course proposal approved by the Parks Commission in April 2016 was for a 21-year lease for Loco Ropes to build and operate high- and low-ropes courses, zip lines, rope bridges, climbing structures and boulders, and ropes assault and challenge courses.

A 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot building would also have been built on-site to include offices, lockers, storage and space for selling merchandise and refreshments.

After a subsequent review by the city attorney's office, it was determined that only the North Little Rock City Council has the authority to approve any lease of city parkland, and state law required an advertising and bidding process before such an agreement. Reviews by state and national parks officials further delayed the city advertising for bids until late last year.

Leasing terms being worked out after the bid was accepted included determining payments to the city and a new length of time for the contract to be in effect, a city official said last month.

"It was increasing the [business] risk, increasing the expectations and it was decreasing the amount of land," Cox said about the proposed contract. "It was going in the opposite direction than what we were hoping for. They were not small changes. It was big changes. We wanted to be there. It is really disappointing."

Loco Ropes would still like to open new courses elsewhere in Arkansas, Cox said, in addition to the one at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View.

"We very much want to expand," Cox said. "We wanted to be in North Little Rock. We will continue looking."

Metro on 05/21/2018

Print Headline: Plan for ropes course in NLR falls apart

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