Community leaders came together with four generations of the Earl Rogers family to dedicate the new Rogers Plaza on Tuesday morning.
Mary Louise Rogers, the matriarch of the family, said, "I know Earl would be so happy, because he was primarily concerned in developing Conway and making it a place people wanted to live. That was what he worked at all the time. I hope the people of Faulkner County will enjoy this plaza and bring their families."
Conway Mayor Tab Townsell spoke briefly at the dedication, thanking the Rogers family as well as all those involved in the construction of the plaza and the years-long planning process behind it.
"We have to go back about 50 years and remember the original creation of the Conway Development Corporation … Earl Rogers was one of the first members," he said. The CDC was created with the vision to do special projects for the community, he said. Later, when the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce building was constructed at its current site, then-president Lloyd Westbrook had the idea for a park that would provide a welcoming entry to downtown, and the Rogers family went on to dedicate their property to that end, Townsell said.
"All told, this is about a $1 million public project, but if there’s ever a time when things are priceless, it’s when you set it aside for the public benefit," he said.
Other members of the Rogers family who attended the dedication were a daughter of Mary Louise and Earl Rogers, Weese Clifton, and her husband, Bob; two granddaughters, Cassandra Goodgame and Brittany Haley; and a great-grandson, Zachary Tapp.
Mary Louise Rogers said, "I came to Conway in 1940, and I loved it then, and I still love it. Conway’s been good to us, and I want to be good to Conway. I want people to realize what a good place it is to live."
Frank Riggins of Crafton Tull designed the plaza. He said, "It was a collaborative effort between Crafton Tull, the chamber of commerce and the city. The plan evolved over time. A key part was relocating the street. We wanted it to be a civic space where people could gather, events could be held, and that would serve as the entry into the city."
City Engineer Ronnie Hall said adding another lane on Oak Street has improved traffic flow, and the plaza also decreases flooding in the area.
"It lowered this area to provide a little more drainage. Hopefully as waters rise, it will pool in the plaza instead of in Oak and Court," he said.
A ceremonial ribbon cutting was held as Townsell dedicated the plaza in the name of the Rogers family.
(Rachel Parker Dickerson may be reached at 501-505-1236 or firstname.lastname@example.org)