OZARK -- The city teamed up with other local entities and volunteers to breathe new life into its oldest park as part of an ongoing initiative.
Theresa White, secretary and treasurer of the Ozark Pride and Beautification Committee, said the committee worked with many people throughout the year to revitalize East Side City Park -- or Gar Creek Park -- off U.S. 64.
White said the committee's purpose is to find ways to make Ozark more attractive to visitors and residents, as well as better inform people about all the community has to offer. Its mission statement is, "Building a better hometown and enhancing the city of Ozark by implementing and maintaining landscapes, trails, public art exhibits, litter control and signage with strategic community partnership." The city gives the group $4,000 annually.
The committee works with other groups such as Main Street Ozark and the Ozark Advertising and Promotion Commission to increase tourism in Ozark, White said.
Roxie Hall, Ozark's mayor, said she thinks people see the committee's activities -- like the East Side City Park project -- on social media and want to come see them firsthand. They then visit the city's restaurants and other points of interest while they're there.
Hall said Ozark has a lot of "great possibilities" despite its small size, such as many historical buildings and beautiful sights on the Arkansas River, which runs along its southern border.
East Side City Park represents the east gateway into Ozark and is home to a bandstand and the only boat launch in the city, White said. However, it had been neglected for a long time.
White said in an article published in the Ozark Spectator on Oct. 25 the committee noticed its poor condition when planting trees in Ozark's parks as part of another beautification effort last spring.
"Tables and sidewalks were covered with graffiti, profane symbols and inappropriate language was written on benches and walls, bathrooms were being vandalized and much more," White wrote.
The committee first worked with volunteers to provide fresh paint for the tables, benches, bathrooms and trash cans at the park under a "vintage waterfront" theme, according to White's article. Michelle Tull-Brown, former committee chairwoman, brought in resident Kim Franks -- who has a degree in interior design -- to help with that aspect of the project. The committee paid $1,500 for the paint.
White said the committee also decided in May to reach out to Some Girls and a Mural -- a group of mural artists that had previously done work in the River Valley. The two groups decided to invite Ozark High School students to submit artwork of River Valley flora and fauna. Some Girls and a Mural then compiled the submissions to create a rendering for a mural on the outside of the park's bathroom facility.
Some Girls and a Mural also designed a mural on the east wall of the park's bandstand facing U.S. 64, depicting a man fishing on the Arkansas River with a caption that reads, "Ozark on the river," White said.
White said Main Street Ozark provided $5,800 for the murals. Some Girls and a Mural began painting them Oct. 9 and completed its work Oct. 16.
However, White said the bandstand was found to be "totally rotted out" when it came time to paint its mural. She said Hall and Christopher Brockett, a Main Street Ozark board member, ultimately decided the east wall needed to be torn down and replaced with metal siding.
"Time was of the essence and Chris provided one of his contractors, Phillip McElroy, to purchase the metal and install it," White said. "Once the metal was installed, Andy Dwyer was contacted to prepare the metal siding and then to paint it. In five days time, the entire east end of the bandstand was ready for the artist to arrive."
The City Council voted Oct. 9 to set aside up to $13,000 to repair all three walls of the bandstand, according to White. This included $7,000 to repair the east wall.
Hall said the repairs were finished by Oct. 25. The inside of the bandstand has been painted as well.
Shelby Beasley, executive director of Main Street Ozark, said the Pride and Beautification Committee's focus at East Side City Park has been "huge" for the downtown Ozark area. The park often hosts events such as fishing tournaments and has people enjoying it.
"We've got two tennis courts down there, tons of picnic tables, a nice playground, and so I'm hoping just keeping that cleaned up, beautifying that, is just going to continue to bring visitors to the area," Beasley said.
White said the committee hasn't determined what will be painted on the bandstand's two other walls. Two of the picnic table areas at East Side City Park also still need to be painted.