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North Little Rock aldermen on Monday approved adding the former Stone Links Golf Course to the list of 35 parks under the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, but the action doesn't designate the property as an official city park.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department will oversee the 169.65 acres of the former golf course with plans to add cricket fields and to convert the former clubhouse into a hospitality house and its golf cart paths to walking and biking trails. The city, however, retains ownership for legal reasons, officials said.

Aldermen approved the ordinance 7-0. Alderman Murry Witcher was absent.

The Stone Links subdivision and its adjacent former golf course is north of Faulkner Lake Road and east of Interstate 440 on the city's east side.

The legislation states that anything that could prohibit or hinder the "future development of Stone Links is prohibited." That leaves open the possibility that the city could develop or even sell the property in the future, without any restrictions from federal park requirements.

"Just because we call it a park doesn't mean it gets the parks designation," Mayor Joe Smith said after the meeting.

The Parks Commission voted last week to request that the City Council transfer the Stone Links property and the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum properties to the Parks Department. In response, Smith said last week that moving the maintenance and oversight of the Maritime Museum to the Parks Department wouldn't mean the city relinquishing its ownership of the museum's assets, which include the Razorback submarine and tug Hoga. The museum transfer is expected to go before the City Council next month.

The Stone Links Golf Course was among properties sold at an auction in December 2014, leading residents of the Stone Links subdivision to voice concerns to the city over the property's future and about possible effects on their home values. The new owners donated the golf course property to the city for an undetermined use.

"The interest of the city is to find the best use of the property for now, but to preserve the ability for a better use that may arise tomorrow," City Attorney Jason Carter said after Monday's City Council meeting. "The city has the right to sell it if it wanted to do that.

"If the city dedicated the property as a park, that has special meaning because the property would then have to be used as a park in perpetuity and not used for other purposes until some formal procedures are followed to change that designation," Carter said.

In March, the City Council appropriated $40,000 for the Parks Department to convert the former golf course for use as a park. About half of those funds were to be used to renovate the former golf pro shop. The remainder will be used to maintain the grounds.

Metro on 04/26/2016

Print Headline: Ex-golf course unofficially a NLR park

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