Proposals from MU students focus on Family Fun Park projects

By John Hacker

Globe Staff Writer

NOEL, Mo. - Although Friday was the first day David Vaught's 10 students from the University of Missouri had ever stepped foot in Noel, their work over the past six weeks made them feel like they were coming to a place they had been to before.

Ten seniors and graduate students, all seeking degrees in either geography, or parks, recreation and tourism, presented Noel residents with 10 plans and cost estimates for ways to add to the recreational opportunities at the town park.

Josh Harrington, 22, a senior parks, recreation and tourism major from Memphis, Tenn., said Friday all the students were looking forward to presenting their ideas, but one thing surprised them when they arrived in town.

"I think everyone was a little surprised by the chicken smell," Harrington said.

"We were all warned about the smell, but it still came as a bit of a surprise. Other than that, we all enjoyed the drive along the river, and we all believe this is a very pretty area."

The students, none of whom had ever been to Noel before Friday, gave their plans to residents at a meeting at the Noel Housing Authority.

The students' plans were created to help residents of Noel find ways to use an $11,000 grant from the University of Missouri Extension Service to make the city a more "family-friendly" place to live.

Residents hope to use the private grant as seed money to apply for other grants to pay for some of the things in the students' plans.

Vaught, who teaches the class as director of internships with the university's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said each student created a plan to address the needs of the community as described by Noel residents and officials in videotapes he made during his own visit in June.

He said the plans each included documentation and justification for each idea proposed and included detailed cost estimates on each item.

Melissa Lockwood, 21, a senior parks, recreation and tourism major from Jefferson City, said her plan included work on the two soccer fields that exist on the property and the addition of two sand volleyball courts, a basketball court, a one-sixth-mile walking track, and a large pavilion with restrooms, a kitchen and maintenance room.

She said her plan would cost $533,100.

Courtney Weingand, 21, a senior parks, recreation and tourism major, said her plan was similar to Lockwood's, but it included an outdoor education area with kiosks that might hold information about the area.

Her cost estimate was a total of about $1.4 million, but that included the cost of a pedestrian bridge that would give residents a new way to walk from the business and residential side of Noel to the south and the park, the poultry plant and other businesses to the north without walking along the narrow Missouri Highway 59 along the bluffs that tower over Elk River.

Weingand said the estimated cost of the bridge, which would cross Elk River at the park, was $800,000.

Joyce Short, director of the Noel Housing Authority, said the Authority and Ozarks Regional Alianzas, a coalition of groups set up to help Hispanic residents of Southwest Missouri, donated $2,500 to pay the expenses for the students to travel to Noel.

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