Controversy surrounding a lighted metal cross on a pole led Ozark residents to question the ownership of Finley River Park, and the origins of the holiday light displays that fill the park every December.
Some residents, in particular, questioned whether or not the city of Ozark actually owns its largest park. The answer is somewhat complicated, but as it pertains to the cross display on the park’s north end, the answer is that the city of Ozark owns the land, the cross, the lights and the utility pole supporting it all.
According to the Christian County Assessor’s Office, there are three different entities which own parts of the land that makes up Finley River Park.
The assessor’s publicly available GIS map shows the northernmost part of the park, consisting of grassy soccer fields, is owned by the city of Ozark. The city also owns a northern portion of the park consisting of a service road, baseball diamonds, a parking lot, a volleyball court and a play area. The city of Ozark is also listed as the owner of the grounds of the Ozark Boosters Club Arena, though the rodeo boosters are listed as the arena’s caregivers by the assessor’s office.
Finally, the southern half of the park, made up of 20 acres of land south of the rodeo arena from Riverside Road to the bank of the Finley River, is owned by the Christian County Agricultural and Mechanical Society. The 80-year-old organization formed in order to conduct fairs and promote agriculture in Christian County, and is known for holding an antique tractor, truck and car show every July at the Christian County Fair.
Ozark Public Information Officer Samantha Payne explained that all of the park’s light displays are owned an maintained by the city of Ozark, even if the displays were originally given to the city by other parties.
“You can donate (displays), but when they donate them, it becomes public property,” Payne said.