Fort Smith, Arkansas
A commitment to enhancing the quality of life and sustaining continuous improvement within a community are key characteristics of a professionally managed city, town, or county and make those communities great places for residents to work, play, and live.
An outstanding example of this kind of commitment became a reality recently in Fort Smith, Arkansas (pop. 87,500), the second-largest city in the state, where residents celebrated the completion of a six-year plan to bring a municipal-owned aquatics center/waterpark to the city.
Fort Smith’s Parrot Island Waterpark celebrated its grand opening on Memorial Day weekend 2015, and despite cooler-than-usual temperatures, enthusiastic residents from the city and surrounding area took advantage of the facility’s new wave pool, four water slides, lazy river, activity pool, and themed children’s aquatic play area. The $11-million-project—which is a joint venture between the city of Fort Smith and Sebastian County, Arkansas—also includes a number of other amenities, such as private party pavilions, cabana rentals, food and beverage concession stands, 800 complimentary deck and lounge chairs and more than 250 complimentary water tubes, according to the Fayetteville Flyer.
Parrot Island was conceived and implemented under the direction of Raymond “Ray” Gosack, who has served as Fort Smith city administrator from 2011 to June 2015. “Three years ago, voters overwhelmingly approved the use of a local sales tax to help finance the project,” Ray was quoted as saying in the Fayetteville Flyer. “Now they’ll get to float, splash and slide in the region’s best waterpark…” He also said that the facility would add to the region’s quality of place and would make the area a more attractive place to live and do business.
The waterpark compliments many of the amenities already available in Ben Geren Park, including miniature golf, go-karts, playground equipment, outdoor picnic areas and pavilions, softball and soccer fields, tennis courts, a 1.5-mile fitness and circuit walking trail, two 18-hole disk golf courses, more than eight miles of paved bike trails, 11 miles of mountain bike trails, and a 27-hole county golf course. The Parrot Island waterpark replaces Ben Geren’s swimming pool, which closed in 2004.
One-day tickets to Parrot Island range from $10 to $15 per person ($5 for non-swimmers), and season passes start at $59 per person or $199 for a family of four.