BENTON, Ark. – One central Arkansas city is making room to expand. Tuesday, the city of Benton secured its largest land purchase in history. 511 acres of undeveloped land will be added to Benton’s Parks and Recreation System.
With the purchase, the city showed a plan for how they will use two of the 10 tracts of land they are spending $7.6M to acquire. The 10 tracts will be purchased over the next 10 years. All of this is being paid for in cash by the Advertising and Promotion Commission tax which is currently set through 2041.
Will Garner lives in the middle of tract one. The view from Will Garner’s back porch is about to transform, and he says he’s looking forward to watching it for one reason.
“I’m happy to see something that’s going to be good. They (will) do something around here for the kids,” Garner said.
Of the 511 acres purchased, the concept plan shows about 30% of it, and what Parks and Recreation plans to do. Soccer fields, an RV park, a pavilion, a dog park, a swimming pool, a playground, baseball/softball fields, a passive/rain garden, river access parking, a boat ramp, kayak landing, a fishing deck, hiking trails and indoor soccer/sports facility will be managed and maintained by Benton Parks and Recreation.
Additionally, the land will connect the Lyle Park River access to the Cherry Demuth River access six miles down the Saline River. The first construction of about eight soccer fields, is expected within two to three years according to Benton Communication Director Matt Thibault.
“If a city is not expanding it’s dying,” Thibault said.
Currently, Benton only has one soccer field at CW Lewis Stadium where travel teams can compete. The city’s 20 and 40-year plan will target more deficiencies like this.
Other needs identified in the 2040 plan include paved bike trails, neighborhood parks, mountain biking trails, an indoor water park, a tennis/pickleball complex, campgrounds, an archery range, a championship disc golf course, and a renovation of CW Lewis Stadium.
“It’s getting us a quality of life for not only today’s generation, but tomorrow’s generation, and generations from here on out,” Benton Mayor Tom Farmer stated.
Jim Thomas and his family owned the 511 acres. Looking at his cows and property one last time was emotional.
“I’ve been here on the same piece of ground for 65 years,” Thomas struggled to say. “It’s a little hard to let, but I can see the benefit.”
A benefit Garner said he hopes to enjoy too one day.
“I’m just grateful that someone cared enough to want to do some positive things, some constructive things. Really need that around this town,” Garner added.
If you want to find this first tract of land, it will be on your right leaving Benton on I-30 exit 114 with future tracts moving north along Highway 229 and the next six tracts east of the Saline River which connects to Lyle Park.