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When First United Methodist Church began thinking about doing something to their large western parking lot several months ago, the ambitious project was just an idea. Aimed at transforming the appearance and enhancing the warmth and appeal of downtown Paris, the project has is quickly gaining partners.
Harrison Walker and Harper, Hayter Engineering, Liberty National Bank, Dan Wardlow Illustration, Transforming North Texas and the City of Paris have each joined First United Methodist Church as significant partners in the idea of transforming the church’s main parking lot into what will soon become a downtown-area community park.
“The church has been talking about doing something to the west parking lot for several years,” FUMC pastor Rev. Rob Spencer said. “I just began to encourage us to think about it being more than just for cars.”
Rev. Spencer has put together a park planning team that is overseeing the development and planning of the project.
“I was very fortunate to get Earl Erickson, Ashley Lassiter and AD Thompson to work with me on the Park/Lot Planning Team,” he said. “They have been instrumental in shaping the vision and direction of the community park…we would not be where we are today without the three of them!”
Earl Erikson — who is no stranger to taking on big projects and seeing them through to fruition — is one of the founders of the Trail de Paris and a leading local trail advocate, playing a huge role in making the Trail de Paris what it is today. He’s also a member of the First United Methodist.
The downtown park is one of three major improvement plans First United Methodist will be undertaking in the next year. FUMC plans to initiate significant repairs and improvements to its historic sanctuary and create a new youth/multi-purpose building, along with the park. Each is expected to continue the idea of creating a more attractive and inviting downtown area.
These improvement projects are expected to total approximately $3 million in all, with $850,000 of the total being the community park.
FUMC anticipates committing $300,000 to $500,000 to the project, while Liberty National Bank has committed $100,000 and Harrison Walker and Harper, a local company that continue to demonstrate love and commitment to Paris, has pledged significant in-kind services to the effort.
Transforming North Texas has awarded a $4,000 grant and Mark Nardone memorial gifts designated for the park total $4,000, while the City of Paris has voiced its promise to the project through city manager John Godwin and the city council.
Adding to the effort, Keep Paris Beautiful recently donated $25,000, Rev. Spencer said Thursday.
“It looks like we may have other partners on the horizon to help us tackle this big project just west of our church,” Rev. Spencer said. “It is very exciting to be in a community that works together to make Paris a better place.”
The coming community park will create an interactive family environment, complete with a padded walking trail around the perimeter, splash park, harmony musical instrument playground, green space and possibly public restrooms.
“We are one church with two campuses, downtown and Connections, across from Paris Junior College,” Spencer said. “We do not exist primarily for ourselves. We exist to transform the world by attempting to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.”
More partners are expected to become a part of the project. If you have an interest in improving Paris’ vibrant, historic downtown area you are encouraged to become part of the effort. For more information call Rev. Rob Spencer at (903) 785-4557 or (940) 736-3008.
By Josh Allen, eParisExtra