Little Rock Park Caters to Hospital Patients
Sharon and Billy Taylor spent the last month living in their 18-foot Four Winds travel trailer in west Little Rock’s Maumelle Park as Billy had daily cancer treatments for multiple myeloma at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Across the park, Billy Hartsfield and his wife, Marilyn, call their 37-foot Big Sky Montana fifth-wheel trailer home as he has daily radiation therapy for cancer of the vocal cords at Central Arkansas Radiation Institute on Kanis Road, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Considered a low-cost alternative to hotels and motels, Maumelle Park regularly attracts out-of-town patients and their family members. More than 80 people stayed at the park over the past year while getting treatment at Little Rock medical facilities, according to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and manages the site.
“People come in from all around the state, other states and in a few cases other countries to get medical treatment,” said P. J. Spaul, spokesman for the Corps’ Little Rock office.
“It can get expensive if you’ve got a family member or family members trying to be here with you while you’re undergoing treatment.” But federal limits on how long people can rent a campsite there pose a problem for those coping with unpredictable medical conditions.
So the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and UAMS have joined in a cost-sharing agreement to build six to 10 campsites for UAMS patients having long-term outpatient medical treatment.
The medical center, its Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, are giving $90,000 for construction of the campsites. The Corps, which will build, manage and maintain the sites, also got a $10,000 grant from its national office for the project.
The first campsites at Maumelle Park, along the Arkansas River near Pinnacle Mountain, are expected to be open by October.
Dr. Peter Emanuel, director of the UAMS Cancer Institute, said many patients stay for weeks or months of treatment at a time. It’s difficult for them to have to move every couple weeks if they’re staying in a recreational vehicle or travel trailer.
It’ll help to have the new campsites, where UAMS patients can stay as long as needed, Emanuel said.
Spaul said the two-week time limit is a national rule of the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent people from staying in parks too long. Stays can be extended to four weeks during certain times of the year.
As chief of operations for the Corps’ Little Rock district, Lee Bass said he regularly gets calls about patients who need to stay at Maumelle Park more than two weeks.
“Our rules say we’ve got to move them out because it’s a public facility and it has to be open for all of the public,” Bass said.
In such cases, park rangers have helped people find somewhere else to live, but they’d prefer not to have to ask them to move at all, he said.
So Bass talked to his wife, who works at the UAMS Cancer Institute, and she helped him contact hospital officials about starting the agreement to share the cost of more campsites.
Using donated dollars allows the park to bypass the usual time limits.
“It keeps us from having to be bad guys and moving people out of the campsite,” Spaul said. The new campsites will be built in the existing camping area, which currently has 129 sites, said Miles Johnson, acting project operations manager at the Corps’ Russellville Project Office. Patients will be able to reserve sites through the UAMS Patient Advocates Services office. Bass said the agreement may be extended to other hospitals in the future. “If this works, we may talk to others,” he said.