The Student Association’s (SA) Gin Creek project, the Nicholas Smith Recreation Area, will officially open to the public tomorrow after its dedication ceremony. Beta Omega Chi (BOX), the men’s social club with which Nicholas Smith was involved, will host a celebration breakfast with the Smith family that morning.
Smith was a senior youth and family ministry major at Harding when he died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 2015. In addition to BOX, Smith was an honor student and beaux for women’s social club Chi Kappa Rho.
The project was a shared idea from SA president senior Dakota Ellis and President Bruce McLarty. Originally, the two saw it as an opportunity to clean up the segment of Gin Creek that runs through Harding’s campus and provide a new common area for students; but as the plan was further realized, it became much more than that.
Over the summer, athletic training students, the Bisons football team, teachers, participants in Student Impact and others helped prepare the area for construction.
“The park came together in an amazing fashion,” Ellis said. “Once (the creek) was cleared, it was the people — students and staff combined — who worked on it and did a really good job.”
Ellis said that over 1,000 students were involved in the project, and that it was meaningful to him to watch so much of the Harding community come together, volunteer their time and collaborate on such an impressive product.
“It was fun,” Ellis said. “And it was a meaningful project, too.”
The park will consist of five grills and picnic tables, two fire-pits, and 13 different places to hang a hammock. The SA intends it to be used by Harding students throughout the school year as a place to relax and enjoy a view of the creek, and by social clubs for various functions, and tailgating.
“I’m very excited to use the park,” junior Nora Johnson said. “There are a lot of parks around Searcy, but there aren’t many I can necessarily walk to, so this will be a really nice addition to Harding’s campus.”
Johnson also said that she is aware of the project’s dedication to Nicholas Smith and is grateful that the SA invited his family to participate in the dedication ceremony. Johnson said he was grateful.
“A lot of my friends were very close to him, so his name is one that I’ve heard a lot,” Johnson said. “I’m very aware of the impact he had on Harding’s campus.”
President of men’s social club Beta Omega Chi senior Jacob Ardrey said he is excited about the park and similarly hopes the celebration breakfast and dedication will mean a lot to Smith’s parents.
“He passed away on the Spring Break of my freshman year,” Ardrey said. “But a lot of the (Harding) alumni who knew him will be sharing some stories about Nick during the celebration breakfast … and a BOX alumnus who was his friend will be leading the closing prayer at the dedication.”
Ardrey said he is inspired by the number of alumni who plan to attend the celebration breakfast as well as those who have sent letters and videos to be given to the Smith family in memory of their son.
A plaque with the outline of Smith’s face will stand in the center of the park in his memory. It reads, “Most of all, remember that you are loved by the creator of the universe and He desperately wants a relationship with you. May you find Him working in your life daily.”
The celebration breakfast will be held on Oct. 21 at 9:30 a.m. in Reynolds 202, and the dedication ceremony will be held behind the Ganus Athletic Center at 1 p.m.