Festival planned to support Lewis Park in Fayetteville

Lewis Soccer Complex

A group of residents next month will host an event to begin raising money to preserve Lewis Park in Fayetteville.

The Lewis Field Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the park next to Asbell Elementary. The event will include pickup games of ultimate frisbee, rugby, soccer, and other activities for kids, along with yoga, a slack line, live music by DJ E-Yo and a local African drum group.

The event will also include a silent auction and raffle in order to raise funds to prevent future development of the park.

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture owns the 27-acre property, which the city has leased for its youth soccer program since 1993. Soccer programming was recently moved to Kessler Mountain Regional Park in anticipation of the lease termination. The 25-year lease with the city is set to expire on June 30

The university system’s Board of Trustees have agreed to sell the property, which has an appraised value of $4.1 million. The division has said it plans to use money from the sale for upgrades to its laboratory and associated equipment.

City officials had originally planned to terminate the lease last November after the soccer fields were completed at the regional park, but the City Council tabled the proposal at the request of a group of neighbors who wanted some time to explore ways to preserve the park.

At the time, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he understood that there are many residents with ideas about what should happen to the land, including those who’d like to see it preserved as a green space. He told the audience that the regional park land was acquired built in response to the knowledge that the Lewis Park land would one day revert back to the university after the lease expired.

“I certainly am in support of preserving all the green space in this city that I can,” Jordan said. “But right now I don’t see the finances needed to purchase another piece of property.”

Will Dockery, one of the organizers of the Save Lewis initiative, said he doesn’t expect to be able to raise that much money, but he does hope to raise enough to somehow help facilitate an agreement to keep the beloved park intact.

“When Gulley Park got added onto, citizens had to raise money to do that,” he said. “We’re just hoping we can help facilitate something between the University of Arkansas and the city to to save the park.”

Dockery said he hopes to raise around $10,000 at the event, and then a larger fundraising campaign will begin. He already has pledges from local businesses toward his larger fundraising goal, he said.

“Even if we can’t save it, we really need a walkable park on this side of town for people who don’t own cars,” he said. “Everyone should be able to have a park. Parks don’t care if you are rich or poor. They don’t care about gender or status. That are just places for people to be people.”

The event is free to attend, with a $10 suggested donation toward the Save Lewis cause.

For a bit more information about the SaveLewis initiative, visit savelewispark.org.