Joy Blankenship, chairman of the Lake Saracen Project Association, speaks to a crowd gathered at a hill overlooking the newest section of the Sararcen Walking Trail during a dedication of two phases of the project Wednesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Chairman of the Lake Saracen Project Association Joy Blankenship, left, and Parks Director Angela Parker hold placards as Greg Gustek speaks during the dedication of two phases of the Saracen Walking Trail Wednesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Two of the eight phases of Lake Saracen Walking Trail – which connect Regional Park and Saracen Landing to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff — were dedicated Wednesday morning, with Pine Bluff officials praising the private and public effort behind the trail and other planned recreational improvements.
Included in this portion is a bridge across Caney Bayou.
Joy Blankenship, chairman of the Lake Saracen Project Association, noted the first phase, which was dedicated three years ago, is used every day by walkers and others.
Four phases involve the Game and Fish Commission paving a parking lot and a new boat ramp behind the UAPB chancellor’s home, widening of University Drive by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, construction of another crossing at Brumps Bayou, a 300-foot fishing pier for the handicapped and wildlife observation area at the rear of the old George Washington Carver School.
The eighth and final phase of the walking trail will begin at the pier, turn south on Linden, then east on Pullen to return to Saracen Landing. Once the last link is finished, the trail will cover five miles for walkers and bicyclists.
“As unbelievable as it seems, more than $500,000 has been put into this trail system from grants and in-kind services,” Blankenship said.
She credited association members with the “persistence of the spirit” for their work on the second and third phases.
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. noted a pavilion has been erected next to the parking lot and will soon have tables for picnics and other activities.
The walking trail was awarded the “Governor’s Fitness Award” last year, he reminded ceremony participants, calling Lake Saracen a “gem in our community.”
Greg Gustek, association treasurer, said the pavilion and wildlife observation benches will be called “Golden Lions Park.” UAPB has agreed to maintain the park, he added, and already provides security patrols.
The city will utilize a combination of sales tax revenues and a 50-50 matching grant state grant to build a 3,600 square foot splash park at the west edge of Lake Saracen, said Angela Parker, municipal parks and recreation director and association secretary.
An obsolete playground will be replaced with a new playground structure that complies with all state and federal guidelines, she added. The recreational area will have restroom facilities and solar lighting.