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In January of 2016 Southern Hills Economic Development initiated a two-year community engagement process which identified five areas of community interest. The City of Hot Springs and the Hot Springs Chamber also committed to participate and assist with completion of goals where possible and appropriate. Out of the initial meeting five initiative teams were formed. These teams have worked diligently over the past two years to promote community development in their respective areas.

The purpose of the Recreation Initiative Team is to Encourage and Promote Recreational Opportunities. Approximately forty people participated over the last two years and committed over 1700 man hours to raise awareness and work towards its goals.

The team first identified nine needs for Hot Springs. These were: increased recreation opportunities including Pickleball, Tennis, Frisbee Golf and other sports at Butler Park and elsewhere in the community, increased city-county trails for walking and cycling, expansion of the Freedom Trail with eventual connection to the Michelson Trail, user friendly parks with cross market events and positive promotions, development of official size soccer fields, a year round recreation center with indoor walking track and lap pool, opportunities for tubing on Fall River, Ice and roller skating, and the creation of private/public partnerships to promote and fund these initiatives. After a number of collaborative meetings the team merged with the Southern Hills Recreation Initiative Committee, a 501 C 3 which has been working towards likeminded goals for several years.

The team has had numerous successes and completed several of its goals. These include a highly successful ongoing gymnastics program, the resurfacing of the tennis courts with the addition of Pickle ball courts, and a tennis clinic held in 2017. The team also completed a city-wide survey to determine best use for a potential year-round recreation center. The results showed overwhelming support for a center which would address the recreational needs and desires of all age brackets, with the top two interests in an indoor walking and running track, and a lap pool. The team is collaborating with the city, architects and other entities to further the goal of the recreation center. The City of Hot Springs is also extending the Freedom Trail from its current termination point to Chautauqua Park. The team has also completed the Southern Hills Recreation Initiative Website.

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The teams future goals include, continuing to expand our yearly winter youth gymnastics program, hosting another tennis clinic in September 2018, hosting a pickleball clinic in Sept 2018, and continuing to collaborate with the City Administration, the Plunge Advisory Committee, the Mueller Center, architects, the hospital, the school, other organizations, and the public to come to an agreed upon solution for more recreation options and a building structure.

SHEDCO will host a Community Engagement Gather on April 24th at 6 PM to celebrate the achievements of the Recreation Team as well as the other teams, and to plan, “What’s Next” for community development. Join us at the Mueller Center for a light supper and celebration mixer, and plan for the next two years of community engagement.

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