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First United Methodist Church of Paris is looking for some help in sprucing up downtown.
The church, located at 322 Lamar Avenue, is looking to beautify its large parking lot. Plans call for a walking trail and green belt around the perimeter, a “splash pad” where kids can play and a musical playground.
“If it was up to me, it would be done months ago, but there is the whole funding issue,” the Rev. Rob Spencer, pastor of the church, told the Paris City Council on Monday. “We’ve got to see what the church can pick up.”
Spencer said when he first visited Paris, he saw a lot to like, as well as some areas that could use improvement – such as the parking lot. The church has discussed what to do with it for some time, he said.
“This project has turned out to cost a little more than we thought,” he said. “If people would be interested in helping us make that happen, that would be great.”
At the very least, Spencer said he hopes to see the splash pad operational by next summer.
District 3 Councilman John Wright said he hopes such development will become “infectious” around town. Earl Erickson, a member of the congregation, noted that a survey about parks ranked a water play area very high.
“This project will be a stimulus for tourism and economic development, particularly in the downtown area,” he said.
District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said Sulphur Springs has a splash park that draws a lot of attention. She expressed some concern that FUMC’s conceptual drawing showed its water area rather close to the street. Spencer said the track and a wider green belt would move it farther inside than shown.
“This will enhance the city a whole lot,” Drake said. “I appreciate the church taking on a project like this.”
The council directed City Manager John Godwin to offer what aid he could. Even without city involvement, some council members said it will likely be a success just from those getting behind it.
“With Earl involved, his determination will no doubt make sure it moves forward,” District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson said. Erickson has been a driving force behind the success of the Trail de Paris and its expansion.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra