The community of Lonoke gathered together Thursday evening, September 29 for the second public meeting associated with the “Kick Start Lonoke” initiative. Fifty-eight citizens attended the meeting held at the Lonoke County Museum on Front Street as Shelby Fiegel and Corey Parks of the University of Central Arkansas Center for Community and Economic Development, along with Dr. Mark Peterson of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service presented an overview of their work earlier this year and updated the community on steps ahead.
“Kick Start Lonoke” is an independent initiative facilitated by a partnership with the University of Central Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and local volunteer leaders in Lonoke. Those volunteer leaders comprise an Executive Committee made of key individuals from the The Lonoke Chamber of Commerce, City of Lonoke, Lonoke Public Schools, Lonoke Planning and Zoning Commission, Carver Alumni Assocation, and local churches and businesses. The September meeting emphasized the need for the attendees to continue providing their perspective and opinions throughout the process.
During the meeting, Dr. Peterson presented the final version of the Community Development Institute’s Advanced Year Team’s “Initial Impressions” report, hard copies of which will be available for distribution throughout the community in the coming weeks. Shelby Fiegel presented an overview of the timeline and steps ahead for the “Kick Start Lonoke” work, as many of those in attendance were engaging with the process for the first time.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A .PDF. COPY OF THE “INITIAL IMPRESSIONS REPORT”
Finally, Fiegel presented the much-anticipated results of the Lonoke Community Survey. The survey was facilitated via an online portal and hard copies distributed with the water bills, thanks to the coordination and effort of the City of Lonoke. An impressive response of 248 completed surveys meant that the UCA team had a significant data set to analyze and present.
Key takeaways from the survey indicate that the top issues of concern to the citizens of Lonoke include: sidewalk and street improvements, access to grocery store options, the development of Historic Downtown Lonoke, resolving drainage issues, mosquito abatement, city beautification, and education and workforce development.
A second question centered on the community’s ideas for the development of the new Interstate 40 interchange at exit 173. The “Kick Start Lonoke” Executive Committee recognized that Lonoke’s proximity to one of the most traveled interstate corridors in the country, combined with a strategic geographic proximity to both the Delta and the state’s largest metropolitan area is an asset to be leveraged for healthy growth in the community.
The “Kick Start Lonoke” Executive Committee notes that the development of the interchange land is one of the most intriguing topics of conversation in the community over the last several years, and strongly believes it is necessary to seek the public’s input and perspective on what the local population envisions for the site. The “Kick Start Lonoke” initiative and the community survey represent a unique opportunity to gain this perspective in a comprehensive manner.
Top responses to the survey indicate that Lonoke desires to see destination restaurants, retail focused on outdoor sports (hunting and fishing), family tourism and activity areas, and a small-format convenience store / gas station. Fiegel explained that “destination restaurants” are those around which travelers and locals alike plan their trips, representing a concept or experience unique to Lonoke and the region, in contrast to a fast-food restaurant. Additional survey data indicated that the words most used to describe Lonoke by its citizens include “small town,” “rural living,” and “close community.”
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PRESENTATION OF SURVEY RESULTS
Following the presentation of survey results, the meeting attendees then had an opportunity to use three “dot” stickers and apply them next to the words or topics listed on three easels throughout the room that best represented their primary areas of concern or emphasis. This exercise was a tangible and visual application of the survey questions which will guide the Executive Committee in their work in the weeks ahead.
Fiegel explained that the next step will be for the team from UCA, U of A Cooperative Extension, and the local Executive Committee to aggregate the survey responses and determine the key topics to be addressed by the “Action Teams” during future meetings. The October “Kick Start Lonoke” Steering Committee public meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 5:30, at St. John Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 500 E. Palm St. During the October meeting, the community will be invited to join an Action Team that reflects their area of personal interest and concern. These Action Teams will be pivotal in carrying out the work of “Kick Start Lonoke” through April 2017.
The leadership of the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce has affirmed the organization’s partnership with and support of the “Kicck Start Lonoke” initiative, announcing that, in addition to the http://www.kickstartlonoke.wordpress.com website, all pertinent information and announcements regarding “Kick Start Lonoke” will be posted on the Lonoke Chamber’s social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.