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Three Arkansas Towns Awarded AARP Community Challenge Grants

Main Street Batesville has received a $5,000 grant to connect the Maxfield Park development park, seen here, to the downtown district with a sidewalk. (MainStreetBatesville)
Main Street Batesville has received a $5,000 grant to connect the Maxfield Park development park, seen here, to the downtown district with a sidewalk. (MainStreetBatesville)

August 2, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Three Arkansas towns are among the recipients of AARP Community Challenge grants for 2019.

The program awards more than $1.6 million for "quick action" projects across the country, helping nonprofits and local governments make immediate improvements and jump-start long-term progress for local developments. Arkansas grantees include the City of Benton, Main Street West Memphis and Main Street Batesville.

Deborah Abernathy, executive director of Main Street West Memphis, says their $6,000 grant will go toward a small park that displays art-painted, salvaged bicycles near the building that housed the historic KWEM radio station.

"Many of the original blues and rockabilly players – like Elvis and Johnny Cash, and Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy James – all came here when Memphis closed down and would record their music,” says Abernathy. “And then it would go directly on the radio."

Abernathy says the goal is to attract more people – particularly cyclists – farther into West Memphis to see what the area has to offer.

The projects must focus on outcomes that create vibrant public places, or deliver a range of transportation, mobility and affordable housing options. This year, more than 150 projects received funding nationwide.

Brad Jordan, community and economic development director for the City of Benton, says their $14,000 grant will go toward putting thermal plastic crosswalks in front of the town's 1901 courthouse to improve walkability.

"We want to raise everyone's bottom line here, our small businesses,” says Jordan. “So, it's to attract people into our downtown and for them to walk around and shop in our stores, and also just improve the quality of life. It's not only about the money, but it's about the way people feel when they come into downtown."

And Main Street Batesville will get $5,000 to construct a sidewalk to the Maxfield Park development in the downtown district. It will feature a meditation garden, waterfall and green space when it opens in September.

AARP's Community Challenge grant program is part of its nationwide Livable Communities initiative.

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Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR