North Little Rock parks director steps down after 3 months on the job

Randy Sandefur (left), the North Little Rocks Parks and Recreation director talks with a park ranger in this June, 15, 2023 file photo (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

North Little Rock’s Parks and Recreation director, Randy Sandefur, has stepped down after three months of working to rebuild what was left of Burns Park after the March 31 tornado.

Mayor Terry Hartwick said that Sandefur left a resignation letter on his desk earlier this month and that was the last time he heard from him.

“On his behalf, it would have been very much overwhelming,” Hartwick said of Sandefur’s appointment during recovery efforts in Burns Park.

Jason Rhodes, the city’s parks superintendent, has taken over as interim director as of Sept. 1.

“I went, Jason, ‘step it up,’ and he steps up and the next guy steps up,” Hartwick said. “Everybody stepped up a notch is what happened.”

Rhodes has worked with the rest of the Parks and Recreation Department to reopen certain areas of the park while they await Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

“Respect the signs, the barricades, we’re working to get it up as quick as we can as safely as we can for everybody,” he said. “We want to get it open. We want everybody back up there. There’s some hazards that we haven’t gotten to yet, so if there’s a barricade or a park’s closed sign, please respect that.”

The main concern for Hartwick and Rhodes at the moment is the soccer complex and the roads around it.

“I’m not bragging but our city has really done good,” Hartwick said. “Golf is open, soccer field will be coming … the tennis center is now having tournaments, softball fields we’re going to be opening that parking lot soon but we can still have softball, so pretty well, other than disc golf and we’re rebuilding [nine] pavilions and [Fun Land].”

Burns Park will never look the same, he added, but it gives the city a chance to improve and change things.

One Heart Park, dedicated to Emma Wasson, who has Turner syndrome, will be resurfaced to include more heart shapes around the inclusive playground.

“I’ll never build another park without being all-inclusive,” Hartwick said.