Paris was named winner of the Trendsetter Award for Tourism in communities of 5,000 and under population by the Arkansas Municipal League. The award was presented last week during the organization’s winter meeting held in Fort Smith.
Paris Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tonya Baumgartner accepted the award on behalf of the city. Baumgartner wrote the award nomination.
The nomination mentioned the establishment Eiffel Tower Park in downtown Paris, the impact the park has made on tourism in the community and the later establishment of the Love Lock Fence at the park. It also mentioned branding efforts, such as the banners on light poles on Courthouse Square, events that took place downtown, press and media coverage and downtown revitalization work.
The park was created through the efforts of the Paris City Council and a team of volunteers headed by Gene Davis, a retired contractor living in Paris. Work began in early 2014 and the park was dedicated in November, 2014. The centerpiece of the park is a likeness of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. It stands 25-feet in the air on a brick and concrete fountain. The tower was donated to the city by the Rev. Don Eubanks, retired pastor of the Paris First United Methodist Church. The park also includes a stage and landscaping.
“We knew it would have a positive impact on the community but the impact has been phenomenal,” Baumgartner wrote in the nomination letter.
After the park was dedicated, events sprang up around it, bringing people to Courthouse Square.
She also mentioned Paris joining the Main Street Arkansas organization, infrastructure improvements downtown, building renovations, murals being painted on buildings and establishment of new businesses in the area.
Last April, the Love Lock Fence was erected at Eiffel Tower Park. The fence now contains more than 100 locks put on the fence by people who want to “lock” their love in Paris.
“With the combined Eiffel Tower and Love Lock Fence we attract tourist from all over the US coming to celebrate their love of a proposal, wedding, anniversary, adoption or prom to visit Paris, (take a selfie) and enjoy our part of the state while they are here,” Baumgartner wrote.