PRAIRIE GROVE -- The city of Prairie Grove has had some problems with four-wheelers and similar motorized vehicles on the walking trail at the new Muddy Fork Park, so Prairie Grove City Council approved an ordinance last week to hopefully take care of any future issues.
The council approved an ordinance to prohibit the use of all-terrain vehicles, utility vehicles, motorbikes, go-carts and golf carts within the boundaries of Muddy Fork Park, Rieff Park, Mock Park and Donald Parks Tennis Center.
Penalties for anyone found guilty of violating the ordinance in Washington County District Court in Prairie Grove are $25-$100 for a first offense and $100-$250 for a second offense within 12 months of a prior conviction. For a violation that is continuous in excess of seven days, a person found guilty can be fined no more than $25 per day.
The council passed an emergency clause so the ordinance would take effect immediately.
Larry Oelrich, director of public works and administrative services, said city workers have seen tire tracks from motorized vehicles at Muddy Fork Park, and one resident who runs at the park told him she was having to run "between the go-carts and four-wheelers" on the trail.
"It's been a problem," Oelrich said, adding, "I don't think this is the proper place for four-wheelers."
The original ordinance on the agenda prohibited motorized vehicles in the parks.
City Council member Rick Ault wondered if the ordinance should delineate between motorized vehicles, such as ATVS, and other modes of transportation, such as hummer boards, hover boards and scooters.
Ault said a parent could be walking at the park and a child riding a hover board. He asked if the ordinance as written would prohibit that. Ault asked to have time to research it and then talk about it at the next council meeting.
Mayor Sonny Hudson pointed out, though, the city is having problems now with the motorized vehicles at the park.
"Do we want to wait two or three months and let people tear up Muddy Fork Park," Hudson said, noting police officers would be limited on how they could handle the vehicles at the park without an ordinance in place.
"Sometimes we work on stuff and we can't get it through because we can't get it just right," Hudson said. "Food for thought."
After some discussion, the council agreed to adopt an ordinance and prohibit specific vehicles at the parks and then come back and make amendments as needed.
In other news, Oelrich reported the aquatic center's average attendance has been 190 people per day and for the most part, patrons are adhering to guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health for covid-19 concerns.
People are "being pretty dang respectful," Oelrich told council members. He said city staff has received comments from parents thanking the city for opening the pool for the summer.
Restrictions in place this summer because of covid-19 include social distancing at the pool, a capacity of 277 patrons and health screening of each person.
In light of the news with the Black Lives Matter movement and incidents where police officers have been charged in shootings, City Council member Brea Gragg asked police Chief Chris Workman what steps the police department is taking to ensure there's no police brutality. Gragg said she was asking on behalf of a person who came to her with the question.
Workman said he encourages anyone with questions to come talk to him. He said he's also received a couple emails with the same question from new residents in Prairie Grove.
Workman said the department has not had any issues with police brutality, noting the officers' training is "overboard" in this area. He said prior to the covid-19 pandemic, officers would meet with people, go downtown and eat with people and have lots of interactions with the public.
"We can't do a lot of that now because of the covid-19 pandemic," Workman said.
Workman also said the department has been overwhelmed by the community during this time.
"We had food brought to us every day last week," Workman said, adding,"We're blessed and lucky to be in this part of the world."
In other business, the council tabled the third reading of an ordinance to approve the preliminary plat for Wagnon Springs subdivision on Mock Street. The city is still waiting to receive information from the engineer about the development's detention pond.