CAMDEN — A group of Camden leaders have started a series of meetings to discuss how to make their city better.
The group’s “Paths to Prosperity” economic think-tank sessions were organized with assistance from the University of Central Arkansas’ Community Development Institute. The institute, established in 1987, helps give community leaders and economic development professionals tools and strategies they need to create more vibrant, successful communities.
As part of the work, the institute traveled to Camden to work directly with community leaders to assess the city. They conducted online research, worked with focus groups, took a driving tour and completed informal interviews with residents.
A community presentation outlined key opportunities, and the city was provided with a report to use in future planning efforts.
The first “Paths to Prosperity” session was held Dec. 5. At the beginning of the meeting, Camden Mayor Julian Lott touted some of the recent successes of the city, such as the creation of a 20-year intermodal transportation plan involving bicycles and sidewalks. He also shared an example of the challenges facing the city.
“I went into a meeting the other day and a lady said she had come and stayed in Camden,” Lott said. “She said that when she was here in Camden she went to the hotel, she walked to the front desk, she said to the lady, ‘What is there to do here?'” To which, Lott said, the hotel’s clerk replied, “‘Ahh, there ain’t nothing to do here.'”
Lott revealed that the guest was involved in economic development and also talked about how negative Facebook posts affect people’s perception of Camden.
Reese Broadnax of Workforce Development spoke about the recent work of the University of Central Arkansas’ Community Development Institute.
The group visited Camden and held small focus groups in August.
More than 60 people were divided up and sent to different tables. Each table had its own topic such as “Parks and Recreation,” “Health and Welfare” or “Utilities and Infrastructure.” After the smaller groups discussed the positives and negatives of that table’s topic, the members would rotate to the next table.
Broadnax shared what the focus group on recreation said were the bright spots and low points in Camden.
The bright spots were the pool, parks, Plant A Seed Foundation, Camp Ouachita The TRACE, First Friday Market, Postmasters Grill, Sportsman’s Paradise, Splash Pad, The Daffodil Festival, Bingo, the parks, river, hunting and fishing and the Ouachita County Boys and Girls Club.
Challenges were pool maintenance, adding a skating rink, park updates, community civic center, programs for school-age kids, live music opportunity, parks community, nightlife and movie theater.
Michael Smith of Edward Jones Investments said he would like to see a “welcoming committee” formed in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce.
The next “Paths to Prosperity” meeting will take place Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. in the conference room of the Ouachita Valley Business and Technology Center.
Metro on 12/23/2019
Print Headline: Camden seeks path to improvement