Paris City Council to revisit Swints’ $100,000 donation for development of Lake Crook Park

The Paris City Council tonight will revisit a $100,000 contribution from Dr. Richard Swint and his wife, Susan, “for restoration of Lake Crook Park.”

Members of the Paris City Council came out front on Jan. 13 as Dr. Richard Swint and his wife, Susan, came to the podium to present a $100,000 check for the rejuvenation of Lake Crook Park.  (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Members of the Paris City Council came out front on Jan. 13 as Dr. Richard Swint and his wife, Susan, came to the podium to present a $100,000 check for the rejuvenation of Lake Crook Park. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Mayor AJ Hashmi said since the council happily received the donation during the Citizens Forum on Jan. 13 it has become evident there are some strings attached to the donation that the council may not be willing to accept.

The Swints have attached restrictions that would torpedo the council’s hopes of attracting tens of millions in outside development of Lake Crook and surrounding city-owned land, perhaps as a theme park along the lines of Disney Land or Disney World.

“The council has to decide whether to accept Dr. Swint’s concept of Lake Crook instead of the plans we have been discussing for the past year or so,” Hashmi said Sunday.

Hashmi said it was his impression at the time that the Swints offered their donation that they were talking about development of a recreational tract as contained in Lake Crook planning documents designed in recent months by city planner Alan Efrussy.

After the council accepted the Swints’ donation, Hashmi announced he would donate $10,000 himself toward development of Lake Crook. His donation contains no such restrictions on what development it could be used on, Hashmi said.

At the council’s direction, Efrussy has been developing a plan of development that would include apartments, homes, and wide-ranging development to make Paris a destination of tourists.

The Swints vigorously oppose such a concept. Rather, they want a quiet lake, for use by city residents and their children, with perhaps construction of lodges that could be rented for weekend use by visitors. That was the idea when the lake was established 100 years ago, and that concept should not be tampered with, they say.

In a 1-1/2 page letter to the mayor dated Dec. 31 disclosing their donation, the Swints said it was “to start a fund for restoration of Lake Crook Park.”

The donation, the Swints said in that letter, “comes with the requirement that the city of Paris undertake the restoration without hiring any consultants, planners, or architects for the park in general.”

They said in the letter: “All facilities should be owned by Paris. Perhaps some, like a restaurant pavilion, could be managed by a contractor.”

In an advertisement in Sunday’s edition of The Paris News, Swint criticized any plans by the city to develop Lake Crook as a resort area.

“The current city manager and city planner do not have the same vested interest and heritage in Paris as long-term residents. Perhaps they do not have a long-term future vested in Paris,” Swint said.

“Plans have been drawn to sell most of the useful park land we have inherited. The council has approved selling and given first order of Zone 1 to be sold. The term ‘resort area’ designating Zone 1 did not communicate to most people ‘sell the park.’ “

Hashmi said although there definitely is interest in aggressively marketing both Lake Crook and Cox Field Airport for economic development, there is no intention by the council to sell city-owned land at either.

Rather, he said, the city would offer long-term leases.

In the Swints’ letter to Hashmi, they said possible developments at Lake Crook should be limited to:

  • Cabins and RV parking areas at the entrances to the parks to leave the central park of the park for activities.
  • All buildings of solid masonry, perhaps Oklahoma rock.
  • Petting zoo.
  • Daffodil and spring bulb trail.
  • Crape myrtle trail.
  • Sweet gum, dogwood and maple tree trail.
  • Municipal flower gardens.
  • Municipal vegetable gardens.
  • English riding club with stables, located at entrance area.
  • Pavilion restaurant with meeting rooms on the high bluff of the original pavilion.
  • Skeet club.
  • Archery club.
  • Black powder club.
  • Canoe and paddleboat rental.
  • Driving trail.
  • Riding trail.
  • Walking trail.
  • Lighted picnic and play areas in the central park area with mown and irrigated lawns.
  • Permanent picnic areas around the lake (perhaps restore and match WPA structures).
  • Naturalist areas.
  • Wildlife areas.
  • Frisbee golf course.
  • Summer nature activities for students, elementary through junior college.
  • Possible construction projects could be an experience for school vocational courses.
  • All trails irrigated.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.