More than six months after city hall closed its doors, the future of the Macks Creek Community Park is still uncertain.
While a committee hoping to save the park is waiting for answers, Camden County is trying to determine what is the best course of action. It looks as if there are no easy or quick solutions to the park dilemma.
Although the future of the 8-acre park is uncertain, there is no lack of interest. The park is listed as an asset in the dissolution of Macks Creek but is also tied up in a grant that restricts what the property can be used for. A volunteer group has been spearheading efforts to maintain and improve the park, hoping to partner with others to ensure the project is completed and remains open to the public.
The park is located on Upper Prairie Hollow Road off of State Road N close to the intersection of Highway 54 and State Road N. The former city had plans for the park but ran into financial problems, forcing then city officials to put aside any plans for improvements. The park was also the target of vandalism.
Community members have formed a park board and are offically Macks Creek Community Park LLC. The park board has no legal standing.
In the months since the dissolution of Macks Creek last August, the future of the park has been under discussion but plans are stalled while the county and Missouri Department of Natural Resources sort through the red tape.
A number of years ago, the park received a grant stipulating that it could never be sold and that it would forever be a park available to all in the community. When the city dissolved, Camden County took possession of the park.
Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken said he did a title search in the Recorder of Deeds office and it shows that title to the property that is now the park went straight from the original owner to the city of Macks Creek.
"There are a lot of stories and rumors circulating regarding who owned the park at various times, but this what the official record shows. There was never a deed issued to anyone — including a citizen’s group — other than the original owner and the city of Macks Creek, and if a deed was not issued, it did not happen," Franken said.
Upon the dissolution of the city of Macks Creek, Franken said all property and assets of the city were to be sold to satisfy creditors and the trustee expenses associated with the dissolution process. All of those properties have been liquidated to date with the exception of the park, which cannot be liquidated because of the cloud that has been placed on it through a default in the grant that was accepted and expended on the facility, he said.
Page 2 of 3 - "In order to sell the park to satisfy creditors, that encumberance would need to be removed. Now, that being said, it is theoretically possible that Camden County could take title to the park property — it is still in the name of the city of Macks Creek," Franken said. "But if we do so before all of the creditors have been paid, then Camden County could be held responsible for Macks Creeks outstanding debts because all of the potentially viable assets were not liquidated."
The total of the outstanding bills for the City of Macks Creek is $18,629.15, with $875.36 owed to the state of Missouri, and $718.48 to the federal government. While the argument may be able to be made saying that the park is not currently in a position be sold, that does not mean that it is not a viable asset in the eyes of Macks Creek’s creditors, and would probably be a losing argument for the county in a court of law, leaving Camden County on the hook for the $18,629.15. The park can only be sold if the stipulation from the grant is somehow removed, Franken said.
The other option would be to get everyone on the creditor list to sign away their claim to payment from the City of Macks Creek to clean that issue up so that the county could consider taking title to the park without worrying about being on the hook for that debt.
"To further complicate the issue, there are no restroom facilities at the park and there are some other safety concerns that would need to be addressed to be in compliance with the grant provisions should the county be willing/able to take title to the park," Franken said.
Those costs could possibly fall to the county under certain conditions.
"In my opinion, I do not think that it would be a responsible decision to take title to the park when it could potentially cost all of the taxpayers a good sum of money to do so," Franken said.
According to DNR, the grant was a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) pass through grant that the city received from the Department of Natural Resources. The funding source for this pass through grant is the Department of the Interior/National Parks Service. These grants were used to acquire land for outdoor recreation, develop and or renovate an outdoor recreation facility. One of the requirements to receive these funds is that the park site will be protected in perpetuity to used only for outdoor recreation and be open to the public. Should this property be sold or transferred to a non- public entity the sponsor of this grant will be liable and must replace this park land with land of equal value and usage. Value will be determined by an appraisal and usage will be determined by the National Parks Service.
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