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County moves forward with plan to purchase Community Park

County moves forward with plan to purchase Community Park County moves forward with plan to purchase Community Park
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

If all goes as planned, the county will own Crawford County Community Park at some point in the future. At a special joint meeting of the Crawford County Council and Board of Commissioners on Sept. 22 at the Crawford County Welcome Center at Carefree, the two boards agreed to move forward with an offer to purchase the park. Council members Dale Roll and Chad Riddle were absent due to illness.

The property is currently owned by the Lucas Family Trust. Raegan Gibson, attorney for the trust, told the group that Forrest Lucas loves the community and gives back to it each year.

“He has a special place in his heart for 4-H,” she said. “He bought the park to keep it in the community. It’s incredibly important to him so that kids have the same opportunity he had. He wants the county to own it and do good work.”

Gibson noted the property is valued at $1.6 million.

“Forrest isn’t trying to make any money,” she said. “He wants to sell it back for what he paid for it.”

That amount is $245,000.

Councilman Bill Breeding said he was not opposed to buying the property but stressed he wants to make sure the commissioners and council members are willing to put forth the time and effort he says are necessary to make it work.

Breeding said when the split between 4-H and the group that formed to operate the community park took place, it hurt the community as a whole. He noted specifically that 4-H was not allowed to have its annual Showcase on the grounds for two years.

“That’s concerning,” he said. “ … I think that’s a crime.”

Breeding said the county will need to establish a board to oversee operations at the park. He also said once the park is paid for, any revenue generated should be reinvested to improve the buildings and grounds.

Breeding also said that it’s possible there could be criminal charges involving alleged wrongdoing related to the park. He said he wants to ensure that no agreement the county makes would result in that being covered up or dismissed.

Gibson noted there have been no claims of any wrongdoing on the part of Lucas.

Breeding made a motion that the county move forward with purchasing community park. He asked that his motion specify “that we do not in any way hinder any criminal investigation and, in fact, encourage it if there’s been wrongdoing.”

The Crawford County Economic Development Corp. will be responsible for 60% of the $245,000 cost with the county responsible for the remaining 40%.

Speaking on behalf of the commissioners, Morton Dale said he has said from the beginning that the commissioners want the council to be fully aware of the park situation and how it transpires.

“I approve of what you’re saying; I have no problems with that,” he said.

Councilman Craig Menke seconded Breeding’s motion, which carried 5-0.