City, school district reach deal for split ownership of Lewis Park

The #SaveLewis campaign led to the ultimate purchase of the Lewis Park property next to Asbell Elementary.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

A deal to split ownership of Fayetteville’s Lewis Park is now in place.

City Council members last week approved a memorandum of understanding with the Fayetteville School District regarding the possession, use, and maintenance of the 25-acre property at the corner of Lewis Avenue and Mount Comfort Road.

The city and district in September agreed to a partnership to purchase the park from the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture. The city had leased the park from the UA division since 1993 for its youth soccer program.

As the 25-year lease neared completion, the division announced plans to sell the property, but a group led by resident Will Dockery rallied to save the park. The group’s efforts led to a one-year extension of the lease, which gave the city some time to find a potential solution.

Eventually, an idea to include park land purchasing funds in the 2019 bond election was given the green light, and then approved by voters in the April special election. The agreement with the school district included an even split of the $3.5 million purchase price for the park. The city’s money will come from the $2.4 million approved as part of the bond package.

The new agreement allows the city to use the district’s portion of the property (approximately 12.4 acres) in exchange for the city maintaining the district’s land until they are ready to utilize the property. The district agreed to provide the city a six-month notice of any intent to utilize their property.

The property will continue to serve the city’s soccer program and provide space for other sports for the foreseeable future. City officials have also mentioned the possibility of adding a playground or other park amenities.

The goal is to eventually develop an overall plan, which would likely be a joint process with the district, officials said.