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Strengthening the Downtown Pulse

By Greg Hines, mayor, City of Rogers, Arkansas

Lake Atalanta transformation accelerates revitalization in downtown Rogers, Arkansas

As a lifelong resident of Rogers, Arkansas, it’s nearly impossible to reminisce without Lake Atalanta prominently finding its way into the conversation.

It was the gathering place. Every wedding rehearsal dinner in town was at Lakeside Restaurant. My first experience on a paddleboat, the day I overcame my fear of leaping off the high dive, and so many of my fondest childhood memories took place at Lake Atalanta.

Everyone recognizes the lake was an incredibly valuable asset, but the key word there is “was.” We watched one of our greatest assets go dormant. But this community and supporting organizations like the Walton Family Foundation have come together to invest in bringing the pulse back to Lake Atalanta. You’re going to be able to spend a whole day in and around the lake, yet be within walking distance from the restaurants and other amenities of our downtown. What this investment means to long-term opportunity for downtown Rogers and the identity of the entire community is immeasurable.

Over the past six years, we’ve gone from conception, to design, to the dream physically coming alive. Two additional parcels of land were acquired, nearly doubling the lake area to 236 acres. We’ve eliminated the dilapidated structures that blocked the view of Lake Atalanta, and major investment has been pumped into restoring its connection to downtown Rogers. We’ve been intentional about removing the man-made structures and respecting the natural beauty that’s always been in our own back yard. 

The old road around the lake is being transformed into a scenic hard-surface trail. Ten miles of additional natural-surface trails are being cut, and we’ve designated a bird sanctuary area and dog parks. Pavilions have been reconstructed and shallow creek beds have been opened up into deep pools. Even the old swing sets have been replaced with play areas built right into the rolling topography of the area. From road improvements to connections to the Razorback Regional Greenway trail system, we’re establishing much-needed accessibility. The physical work began in January 2012, and the community is eagerly awaiting the reopening of Lake Atalanta Park in late summer or early fall of 2016.

Our downtown has reinvented itself a number of times, but we were challenged to think bigger. What we have now is a plan with identity ­­­­– a plan that’s sustainable. We’re creating an environment that’s attractive to residential and business development and redevelopment, and that elevates the potential for our historic downtown.

Lake Atalanta is the secret sauce that has all of those wheels turning again. This is what community is all about.

By Greg Hines, mayor, City of Rogers, Arkansas