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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF The 99-acre Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park in Lowell is home to a fire station and plans include building a new Lowell Historical Museum, a veterans memorial, an amphitheater, farmers market and the NWA Space science center at the park.

LOWELL -- A city park will get several new developments, from trails to a new science center, over the next few years.

Officials said the upcoming projects, paid for with grants, will improve the quality of life and regional connectivity, including connecting to the Razorback Greenway.

Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park consists of 100 acres west of Exit 78 off Interstate 49, which were donated to the city by Kathleen and Leonard Johnson in 2013.

"The Razorback Greenway lies about three-quarters of a mile to the northeast of the park, so there's no way of getting to the park without extending the greenway," Mayor Eldon Long said.

The Razorback Greenway is a biking and walking trail that extends about 37 miles from Fayetteville to Bella Vista.

Making the park a destination along the greenway will further help connect the communities of the region and be another amenity that people who use the trail can access, said Tim Conklin, assistant director for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

"We are very supportive and very excited," he said.

Conklin added stopping points along the trail mean people taking breaks go to restaurants or other businesses, which contribute to the economy.

A walking trail and a fire station call the park home. The city has plans to add a farmers market, parking spaces and restrooms. The Lowell Historical Museum and two nonprofit organizations, Project Red Friday and NWA Space, also plan to move to the park.

Katherine Auld of NWA Space said the organization plans to begin construction in about a year and a half on a science center intended to teach people about space and to interest teenagers and young adults in science careers. The group was established in 2014.

The center likely will be more than one building and include some outdoor activities, Auld said.

Lowell's central location in the region fit the group's goals, she said. The city wants the park to offer something unique to the area, and the science center will add something "cool, interesting and different," she said.

Project Red Friday hosts several events throughout the year to support veterans, said Mike Whitehead of the nonprofit group. The organization has a school program where students make care packages and write letters to soldiers, who are encouraged to write back.

Its new space at the park will allow Project Red Friday to host students so they can hear from veterans and learn what military life is like. The group plans an aquaponics program that veterans will run. The nonprofit group hopes to raise fish and vegetables, 10 percent of which would be donated to homeless shelters or other services and the rest would be sold to pay for the nonprofit group's day-to-day expenses, Whitehead said. The organization plans to start a program to help homeless veterans.

Lowell is in the center of Northwest Arkansas, and the park is close to the halfway mark on the Razorback Greenway. That makes it a good stopping or starting point for trail users, Long said.

"The spirit of regionalism is very strong in our area because of our proximity to other sister cities," he said.

The goal is to encourage tourism and increase the city's tax base, but also to be an amenity for Lowell residents, he said.

"I think it's going to be an amazing economic opportunity for Lowell. It will build quality of life," said Karen Davis, Lowell's planning and economic development coordinator.

The city received two grants -- one for $302,000 and one for $485,000 -- from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and a $90,000 grant from Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, Davis said. The Walton Family Foundation contributed $650,126, and the Leonard Johnson Revocable Trust contributed $600,000. The money from the foundation and from the trust more than covered what the city was required to match to receive grants, Long said.

Kathleen Johnson died in 2010. Her husband, Leonard Johnson, asked the land be turned into a park used by a nonprofit, community-oriented organization and that it be named after his wife. Leonard Johnson died in 2015.

The city plans to have its part of the park improvements completed by early 2020 and expects the nonprofit organizations to start operating in the park or be in the works around the same time, Long said.

Tentative plans include adding splash pads and an amphitheater, although those projects have not been funded, Davis said.

Lowell will add 3,600 feet of trail to the Razorback Greenway at Mills Lane in addition to 1,300 feet of trail around a pond at the park and 530 feet of trail connecting the pond to the trailhead parking lot, said Richard Stone, special services director for Lowell.

Stone said the city intends for the park to maintain a natural atmosphere.

"Everything will be connected with trails, open space, green space, trees," he said.

The Parks Department will oversee the farmers market, Long said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF A crew from Arco Excavation and Paving in Bentonville pours concrete Nov. 8 for a veterans memorial at Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park in Lowell. The 99-acre park is home to a Lowell fire station and plans include the Lowell Historical Museum, a veterans memorial, an amphitheater, farmers market and the NWA Space Science Center.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF The 99-acre Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park in Lowell is home to a fire station and plans include building a new Lowell Historical Museum, a veterans memorial, an amphitheater, farmers market and the NWA Space science center at the park.

NW News on 11/22/2018

Print Headline: Lowell plans park, trail additions

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