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Big Spring Park is all set to get a little bit brighter!
During Cotter’s City Council meeting Thursday evening, Cotter-Gassville Chamber of Commerce President Jason Nazarenko and Cotter City Councilwoman Linda McCarthy presented the city with a check for $13,500 to help the city install new lights and electrical outlets along the walking trail in Big Spring Park.
Prior to receiving the check, the City of Cotter was just shy of reaching its $43,500 price tag to complete the project. The remaining $30,000 is being split between the City of Cotter and a community development grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“We’re excited to be a part of these things, especially with the growth that is going on down there,” said Nazarenko. “With the new sidewalks, what we’re looking at doing is, to give you an idea, imagine all of those lower lights illuminating the park. They’ll also have power outlets. The goal is to move our vendors down there in the park area underneath the bridge.”
Cotter’s Big Spring Park has seen several improvements over the last few years, with Cotter Mayor Mac Caradine focusing on making it a central city hub for residents and tourists throughout the year.
The first major upgrade came in 2021, when the city installed its “Peitz River Lights” on the R. M. Ruthven Bridge overlooking the park. The new lights, which replaced older lights damaged in a bad storm, were an instant hit, with many families and organizations participating in the city’s “Light the Night” events to help cover the cost of keeping the bridge lights going.
Funding for the light installation came from generous donations by local residents including the Peitz family, who donated $100,000 to relight the bridge.
Following the lighting of the bridge in 2021, Caradine began focusing on the park’s walking trails by applying for $49,000 grant with ARDOT. The grant was approved in the early months of 2023, allowing the city to move forward with repaving its walking path in Big Spring Park.
In addition to repaving the walking path, a memorial for the Peitz River Lights was also created underneath the Cotter Bridge. The total project cost was $118,000.
Now, with the walkway completed, Cotter will move forward with installing new bollard-style lights around the inside of the city’s walking trail. The bollards will also have electric outlets attached to them to allow future vendors to hook up along the trail.
After Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Caradine said he would turn his attention to building a full-time stage in the park for various festivals and events.
And the city will need it. This year is set to be a jammed-packed year for Big Spring Park as events like Cotter’s Trout Fest, its yearly running competition, and Christmas in Cotter happen throughout the year.
And that’s not all, Cotter residents and visitors can expect to eat some good BBQ in Big Spring Park with Justin and Casey Morrow’s Down Syndrome Awareness BBQ Cook-off, which was announced during Thursday’s City Council meeting.
The BBQ cook-off is set for Oct. 5 in the park, with proceeds going towards three Down syndrome charities.
“October is Down syndrome awareness month,” said Justin Morrow. “We will be having a buddy walk as well. Basically, we’ll walk the big new sidewalk all the way around and I believe we’ll be selling luminary bags, so people can purchase those, and all the money goes back to the funds for the awareness.”
A duck scramble is also planned in the park’s baseball field. The cook-off competition will only focus on pulled pork this year to make it easier for residents and guests to enter and compete. Vendors will also be available in the park during the cook-off.
Morrow said flyers for the event will start making their way to the public soon. The Morrow’s daughter will choose which organizations the money will go to. Casey Morrow said they became more knowledgeable about Down syndrome after the birth of their granddaughter.
“Our oldest grandbaby was born with Down syndrome, and that’s her daughter. So, they’re going to be a big part of it in helping us put it together as well,” said Casey Morrow.