A group of students will be in Carthage several times over the coming months to look at Carthage's park system and dream about what the parks could be like.

A group of students will be in Carthage several times over the coming months to look at Carthage's park system and dream about what the parks could be like.

The city has contracted with Drury University's Center for Community Studies, a part of the university's Hammons School of Architecture, to come up with a wish list of things and ideas for all the city's parks.

Carthage Parks and Recreation Director Alan Bull said a group of five architecture graduate students from Drury will work with a committee of Carthage residents to come up with a vision for the parks, and they're asking the public to bring ideas to a series of public meetings to be held over the next three months.

The first of these meetings is scheduled for 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at Carthage's Memorial Hall.

The process is similar to a downtown visioning committee that was formed and is still working on ideas generated by a previous group of Drury students in the spring of 2011.

The Vision Carthage Committee still meets monthly and is exploring ways to adapt the ideas generated by that group of students into a revitalize Carthage downtown area.

Bull said the city is hoping to use the Drury University visioning process as a springboard to a professionally developed master plan to help guide the city in the development of the seven parks around the city.

“This could reduce the time and cost of that future master plan,” Bull said. “The vision plan for downtown was neat and generated a lot of good ideas. We're hoping to see the same here.”
Carthage's park system includes Municipal Park, Kellogg Lake Park, Central Park and Carter Park, Griggs Park, Freer Park and the Fair Acres Sports Complex.

Bull said the park system gets heavy use throughout the year, with fishing, swimming, walking and a new disc golf course at Kellogg Lake Park; Kiddieland, the golf course, the swimming pool, historic Carl Lewton Stadium, the municipal skating rink, softball fields, a playground and the Jasper County Youth Fair facilities at Municipal Park; tennis and basketball courts, a playground and skateboard and bicycle ramps at Griggs Park and a wading pool, playground, fountains and large covered shelter at Central Park, and the numerous athletic fields and a walking track at Fair Acres. Freer and Carter parks have fewer facilities, but they too see intense use.

Bull said the students coming to Carthage are a diverse group, with one from Kuwait, one from the Dominican Republic, one from Dallas and two from St. Louis.

He said it will be good to get a fresh view of the park system from the eyes of students who hope real soon to be making a living creating architectural plans for communities.

“These students may bring up good ideas that no one has ever thought of,” Bull said. “We're looking for good ideas for things to do in the parks.”

The students will work with a Carthage Parks and Recreation Visioning and Advisory Committee, created last month by the Carthage City Council.

The students and the committee will host three public meetings where they hope to hear what Carthage residents want to see happen to the parks.

The Drury students assigned to the project are all graduate students in the areas of architecture,  community development and others.

The city will pay Drury approximately $5,000 for the students services.