-- Selling off public land has shown itself to be a bad practice,
whether the act is committed by local, state or federal officials.
public land enters private hands, its price rises drastically in
many cases, and the public ends up paying much more for needed land
later. One example is the soon-to-be closed sale of 20 acres of
city land in southwest Fayetteville for $1 million. A majority of
the members of the City Council were apparently so impressed by
the amount offered that they approved the deal without holding a
public hearing or even saying much about it beforehand.
week or so later, the Washington County Quorum Court spent a lengthy
meeting discussing how to find a site for a desperately needed new
regional jail. The requirements for a combination regional jail
and county road-equipment shop and storage area sound exactly like
the 20 acres the city has agreed to sell to a private, out-of-state
corporation to be developed as a high-priced apartment complex targeting
well-heeled university students.Many
people believe too much expensive housing already is standing empty
in the area.
involving smaller parcels can be seen in the frequent vacation of
various easements, particularly alleys. The loss of a right of way
between houses may come back to haunt another generation of city
fathers, yet alleys are frequently abandoned to owners of adjacent
land even though firefighters, movers and repairmen often find them
useful and possible changes in utility infrastructure may make them
extremely important in coming decades.
portion of an abandoned railroad right of way at Hill Avenue between
Sixth and 11th streets in Fayetteville is for sale and the tracks
are being removed. Whatever the price, the city ought to buy the
property and retain it for potential access to otherwise almost
inaccessible land, particularly because it includes a rail bridge
over the creek that drains Carlson Terrace to Town Branch.
rail lines offer excellent trail bases and some have become especially
valuable ‹ such as the stretch now identified as the Railroad Prairie
State Natural Area east of Little Rock. Should our transportation
planners suddenly realize the value of again using the rail line,
it would be much cheaper to have retained the right of way.
difficult-to-explain practice in a city that was the first in the
region to try to protect its trees is the removal of vegetation
from public parks without considering the opinions of citizens or
weighing the consequences for urban wildlife and the increased temperature
extremes created when a city removes its trees and brush. The most
recent and startling example is at the intersection of South Block
Avenue and 13th Street, where an acre of timber and brush was destroyed
to make way for parking. Certainly, Walker Park needs parking space
and will until more people share rides to sporting events there
or until public transportation is made widely available in the city.
But the timbered land between Walker Park's ball fields and South
College Avenue is itself a treasure that ought to be protected.
There is a great amount of already-cleared land along the western
edge of South Block that could be developed for parking without
further destruction of habitat for birds and other wildlife.
example is downstream from Lake Fayetteville, where brush and trees
have repeatedly been removed in recent years without public input
and without consideration for wildlife that depend on the vegetation
for sustenance. Even a portion of the land west of the Lake Fayetteville
Dam and south of the ball fields has been partially cleared, despite
published reports suggesting that the acreage was to be managed
as a natural area.
brush and young trees along Scull Creek in Wilson Park repeatedly
have been cut back in recent years, even though the very same vegetation
is so important to nesting songbirds that a member of the staff
of the University of Arkansas for some years used the area for a
significant amount of his now-published study of bird-nesting habits.
officials are unable to prevent the clearing of nearly all timber
and brush from private land where development is proposed until
after such land is the subject of a formal application to the city
for approval of a building project. However, it would appear that
city employees and officials would follow the intent of the city's
tree ordinance and avoid destroying vegetation on public property
at all cost.
trees do much more than please the eye of those with the leisure
to pause and look at them. They keep a layer of cool air near the
ground all over the city, reducing everyone's cooling costs in summer,
they reduce the power of the cold wind of winter, they remove carbon
dioxide from the air and replenish the oxygen supply.
shade protects citizens from skin cancer and the unpleasantness
of walking on hot pavement. Left standing in parking lots and along
the edge of streets, they make parked cars pleasant to enter in
list could go on and on.