BY MELANIE BUCK –
William Rainey of the Mena Advertising and Promotion Commission (Mena A&P) has announced Nathan Fowler as the new Director of Aubrey Tapley Park ,which boasts baseball and soccer fields, walking trails, playgrounds, and a beautiful view of Rich Mountain.
Fowler grew up in Mena, graduating from Mena High School in 2004. He continued his education at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Parks and Recreation Administration. Having a passion for outdoor recreation most of his life, Fowler worked with the U.S. Forestry Service throughout high school and college, even taking an internship at Land of Lakes in Kentucky. After college, he worked as the Campground Administrator at Shady Lake with the Ouachita National Forestry before taking the Upward Bound Program Representative position at Rich Mountain Community College. He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Business Administration. “I’ve always liked Parks and Recreation. That’s why I got involved with the Forest Service. When I saw this position open up, I thought it was an excellent position. I get to deal with the youth and sports,” said an enthusiastic Fowler.
Mayor George McKee stated, “His job will be to maintain and grow the park. He’s shown me that he has a lot of knowledge. He’s come up with numerous great ideas already and that makes me feel good.” Including maintaining the grounds, Fowler will also be in charge of coordinating all of the practice times for the city baseball and softball leagues, registration forms, going through the draft with all of the coaches, and setting up a month’s worth of games for each team, in addition to bringing in more visitors to the area. He will also work in conjunction with the city’s soccer league.
Fowler is excited as well, especially to get the chance to work with the city’s sports leagues. There are 5 age divisions in the league that had around 300 youth participate last season. Fowler stated, “My main concern is to have a successful city league and to involve all of the youth that want to be involved with sports. We want to host tournaments, not just for Mena teams, but for outside communities as well, to bring those teams here where they can play against our teams and then go eat at our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and bring more business to Mena.” Rainey added, “For the A&P it’s important to bring people into the community from outlying areas so that we can get them to spend some money.”
Admitting it’s a big responsibility for just one person, Rainey stated, “We’re actually interviewing for a second position now. We can have assistants out here to help him concentrate on bringing these programs together and getting things started.”
All funding for the park is collected from the Advertising & Promotion tax, also referred to as the “hamburger tax” that is collected from all restaurants and lodging facilities within the city limits of Mena. The tax was passed in 2002 and 50% is allocated to tourism promotion, under the leadership of Candace Riner, and the remaining 50% is allocated for Tapley Park.
Fowler intends to maintain the current walking trails within the park to encourage active participation in getting fit. Also in the plans is to bring tennis and basketball courts to the park as well as an indoor swimming facility to be open year round.
Fowler stated simply, “I want to see this park grow.” Rainey said, “We look forward to big things from Nathan. His ideas are looking great and we’re very excited.”