JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Two-year-old Ronan Thompson of Paragould raced from feature to feature at Rotary Centennial Park, never stopping for more than a couple of minutes.

He was one of dozens of children taking advantage of a beautiful recent Monday afternoon.

Dedicated in 2004, it's the busiest site within the 700-acre Craighead Forest Park, said Parks Director Danny Kapales. Though it's only 14 years old, Rotary Centennial Park began showing signs of wear and tear. Kapales said a retaining wall had to be replaced and a safety fence will be installed surrounding the playground equipment, which is designed to provide accessibility for special needs children. Some of the playground equipment will also be replaced in coming months, Kapales said.

Jonesboro has parks at 21 locations throughout the city, and Kapales said his staff has been busy during the offseason getting ready for days like Monday. Soon, school will be out for the summer and children will populate all the parks.

"Our guys are working hard and getting them ready for spring," Kapales said.

There may also be one more park in the near future. Kapales said the city's staff has begun designing a tiny downtown park next to the United Way office at Union Street and Monroe Avenue, the Jonesboro Sun reported.

"We're talking about turning that area into a green space," Kapales said. He said he also hopes to put in some play features similar to those found in other pocket parks scattered throughout the city. Parking spaces are already there, so a small playground will be an excellent addition to the downtown area, he said.

"People could go to that playground, then go on to Main Street and have dinner," Kapales suggested.

While that park will be a small investment, the city is investing millions of dollars for improvements at Joe Mack Campbell Park for baseball and the Southside Softball Complex.

The city installed artificial grass on 11 ball fields at the baseball park with the hope that fewer games will be washed out by rain.

The first big test for those improvements will come this month, when 119 traveling teams from three states will converge on the complex.

At the softball complex, contractors have installed new lighting for the adult fields and parking lots, and construction will begin soon on a new concession and restroom facility.

Improved lighting for the children's fields will be installed this summer, Kapales said.

Plans are also being developed for repurposing and improving the Northside baseball complex at Bridge and Belt streets.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun,