By Martin Couch
Norma Bishop was humbled by the official introduction of Bishop Park in Bryant.
In a grand-opening ceremony that[more] had been put off a week due to wintry weather, Bishop spoke before a large crowd of Bryant and Saline County residents on Thursday, Jan. 26.
"I am so honored," she said. "Charlie (her husband) is not here, but I'm sure he's watching from some place. I could never have imagined anything so spectacular to become of this farm than this is today."
In 1972, the Bishops purchased the property and built a house on it six years later.
"We began to clean up the land and I ran a bushhog," she said. "Later on, we got an old bulldozer and an old truck to move gravel and build a road to the house. Our home was built in 1978, which was the same year of the big flood and we were fortunate that we only had knee-deep water inside our new house. We got it cleaned up and the next year we bought some cattle with thoughts that their grazing would help keep the grass mowed."
Bishop remembers the quail, deer and beavers, which occupied the land as well.
"The beavers would build a dam in the winter time and Charlie would tear it down in the spring," she said. "Then they'd build it again, so it was kind of a race between them and Charlie."
In the mid-1980s, the Bishops were voted Farm Family of the Year in the county.
"Charlie loved farming and our children and grandchildren loved our farm, too," Bishop recalled. "They'd swim and play in the creek and that was great. The land was truly a blessing for our family."
Bishop told that her husband had the idea that the land would make a great place for a city park one day.
"We're honored that it can continue to serve Saline County," she said. "I bet Charlie is watching somewhere saying, ‘I told you so.’ I am as proud as I can be. What a wonderful city park. I offer my humble thank you for this dedication in naming this park in honor of our family. This land is not only ours, but yours."
Nearly 1,000 people attended the official grand opening of Bishop Park that has been operating since October under the direction of Bryant Parks and Recreation supervisor Jeremy Lemons.
"After all this time, it's finally here," Lemons said. "It's a breath of fresh air and it’s been a long time coming. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything is up and running about 99 percent. We still have a few things to do and amenities to add, but it's an awesome thing not just for Bryant, but Saline County and central Arkansas as a whole. People are coming in for regional and statewide events and things of that nature. It's truly amazing for a area."