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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Floodwaters from the Arkansas River cover areas of downtown North Little Rock (left) and Little Rock in this June 4, 2019, file photo. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

This spring's Arkansas River flooding caused about $2 million in damage to North Little Rock's parks and riverfront areas, the city's Parks and Recreation director told the Rotary Club of North Little Rock at its weekly meeting Thursday.

Flooding began May 27, with the river cresting at 29.7 feet June 5. By that time, much of Burns Park's facilities south of Interstate 40 were under water, including its 17 soccer fields, the golf course, the dog park and River Trail.

Along the downtown riverfront, also under city Parks Department management, water covered the parking lots inside the flood wall, reaching up to 4 feet high along the wall. Pedestrian and vehicular openings in the sea wall had to be gated off from the public.

"As long as I've been here, I've never seen water on the sea wall," Terry Hartwick, a North Little Rock native and a former mayor, told about 30 people at the noon meeting.

The $2 million figure is what Hartwick said the Parks Department will turn in to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for partial reimbursement as part of the city government's total to be filed.

North Little Rock will submit about $6 million in damage to FEMA, city spokesman Nathan Hamilton said later Thursday. The figure includes parks, the Electric Department and all other city government expenses that occurred from the flooding and ensuing cleanup, he said.

In July, the City Council established a special account to fund expenses related to the flooding as it waits on whatever reimbursement it will eventually receive from FEMA.

"We'll go through FEMA, getting them a price on everything we have to repair," Hartwick said.

Hartwick recapped for the Rotary Club several of the most damaged parts of city parks and the effort by all of the city government's resources to clean up and restore areas afterward.

One major change was closing the dog park along the river in Burns Park that Hartwick described as looking "like pick-up sticks with a fence around it" from the flood. The city moved the dog park to the other side of Burns Park, to the north of I-40, opening the new site July 22.

"The dog park, there were water marks on the trees that would go another 10 feet over this ceiling," Hartwick said during the meeting at Park Hill Presbyterian Church. "From when the flood hit to when [the new dog park] was open was two months."

The biggest problem for the River Trail and the Downtown Riverside RV Park was the "undercutting" of the trail's asphalt and 10 asphalt parking pads nearest the river at the RV Park, Hartwick said.

He praised city workers from all departments who were involved in the restoration of public properties and facilities. City firetrucks were among equipment used to wash mud and debris from the flooding back into the river as soon as the waters began to recede, he said.

"As the water was subsiding, we were washing it back," Hartwick said. "We were putting the river back into the river. It was a major, major undertaking."

Metro on 09/20/2019

Print Headline: Flooding damage at $2M in North Little Rock parks, riverfront

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