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Greenbrier’s Matthews Park puts out welcome mat for family fishing Saturday

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GREENBRIER — Anglers who may have missed out or didn’t get enough of Free Fishing Weekend last week will have an opportunity Saturday, June 15, to help celebrate a fledgling pond in Central Arkansas and enjoy catching some stocked catfish that are ready for the dining table.
Unlike a few days ago, it’s not all free this week — anglers 16 and older will need to have a valid Arkansas fishing license — but there will be a free fishing derby and prizes, a kids’ zone, free hotdogs for the first 100 anglers, water, a fish cleaning and cooking demonstration, local vendors, music and a dance competition in a party atmosphere thanks to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program when the Matthews Park pond is officially welcomed into the FCFP roster.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Maurice Jackson, the FCFP coordinator, said the “grand opening” of the park and pond is a long time coming. The program has held events at Matthews Park in recent years, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the park and pond were built, there was never a proper opening. Saturday’s event will serve that purpose with invited local dignitaries led by Greenbrier Mayor Sammy Hartwick.
“Our park has been open a couple of years and it’s being used for many things,” Mayor Hartwick said. “So many people are up there now using the splash pad, and we’ll see folks under the pavilion with birthday parties for kids. A circus based out of Springfield (about 10 miles from Greenbrier) is up there doing horse riding training for kids ... It’s what we were hoping for when we build the park and pond, having people come out and have a good time.
“It looks like Mr. Jackson has quite an agenda” for Saturday’s event, the mayor added.
The park, which is 55 acres with a pond taking up a small portion of that, was named for Percy “P.B.” Matthews, who served as the town’s mayor and recorder-treasurer five times in the 1950s and ’60s. The Matthews family owned the land, off Ivy Street and east of U.S. Highway 65 (South Broadview Street), and it sat idle and for sale for about 20 years, Hartwick said. Hartwick saw an opportunity to develop the land for city use, and the two children of the late Matthews who live out of state agreed to the city's offer, allowing the city of Greenbrier to pay the sale amount over two years.
“Our citizens, they are great people and they saw the need,” Hartwick said, noting the half-cent sales tax that Greenbrier voters approved for the park and a new fire station. When the bond is paid off, two-thirds of the half-cent tax sunsets and the remainder will provide for operation and maintenance, he said.

Also, a timely matching grant of $250,000 from the Arkansas Parks and Tourism’s Outdoors Recreation Grants Program helped fund the park and amenities.
“Man, it’s just a blessing,” Hartwick said.
The AGFC’s Jackson continues growing the FCFP, providing family fishing opportunities with special events at several communities throughout Faulkner and White counties, as well as in northeastern Arkansas. To be a part of the FCFP lineup, a town must be in a county of at least 25,000 people. Vilonia’s Weaver Family Community Pond recently was added to the roster, and Beebe’s Community Pond in White County came on board at the same time as Matthews Park during the waning days of the pandemic. The program’s 50th pond, now being built in Osceola, should come online by the fall, Jackson said. Marion opened an FCFP location at its Recreation Complex in recent years, just after West Memphis’s Tilden Rodgers Park Pond joined the roster.
Greenbrier city officials anticipate up to 500 people attending Saturday’s fishing derby. All ages are welcome. Advanced registration is urged; visit https://register-ed.com/events/view/214185 to register. Participants should bring their own fishing gear.
For a full list of FCFP ponds around the state and an interactive map to find them, visit
https://www.agfc.com/fishing/where-to-fish/family-and-community-fishing-program-stocked-ponds/.
Also, 22 catfish derbies are scheduled throughout the state through the month of June with stocking by the AGFC’s fishing derby program. For a list of derbies, see https://www.agfc.com/education/fishing-derby-program/.



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