JR Wheeler and his wife, Kristen, envision a sprawling wildlife park on their property south of Greenwood, with hopes that one day it will become part of the city.
"I can’t stress enough that it will be a legitimate facility," JR Wheeler said. "Once we have the correct funding behind us with the appropriate grant money, it will be something Greenwood will be proud of."
Their plan for Roo Doo’s Wildlife Park, as recently laid out to the Greenwood City Council, starts with securing funds to build a $200,000-plus education building with exhibits and space for children.
"Once that gets up and going, I believe it’s a downhill slope from there on funding," Wheeler said.
The Wheelers own about 150 acres on the west side of Arkansas 71 south of Greenwood and the former Log Cabin Restaurant, which burned down in August 2012.
"The park itself will sit on 50 acres," Wheeler said. "Our main goal will be for education. It’s one of those things where you can look at it and see it’s not about the money; it’s about the kids to a certain degree."
Grant funding is being sought to help the Wheelers’ nonprofit company move the project forward. The entire park will likely cost more than $1 million, Wheeler said.
"The walking trail system alone is going to cost almost $400,000," he added. "But that’s where we’re at right now, the funding issue. We’re going to see how the grants play out."
Because many of the potential grants require a city relationship, Wheeler hopes Greenwood will annex the property. But to do so would require cooperation with other landowners between the Wheeler property and the city’s edge.
"It’s far enough that realistically we know city sewer and water, none of those perks are going to come to us," Wheeler said. "The main perks for us to pay city of Greenwood sales tax is the label of Greenwood."
An alternative to annexation, Wheeler said, may be to lease space, possibly at the education building, to the city.
"That will tie us in with the city of Greenwood," he added.
Wheeler said he plans to revisit the Greenwood City Council in July, then reach out to the Sebastian County Quorum Court for support in the fall.
"I have every hope it works out," Greenwood Councilman Lee Johnson said. "I think it would be great for the city. If there’s a way we can help that seems legitimate, then I’m going to be in support of that. There’s not a lot of things like this that come in front of us that seem positive."
Councilman Rod Powell said the city’s Advertising & Promotion Commission could help promote the park.
"That’s what it’s there for," he said.