can a person say when a U.S. Congressman asks what he can do to
help a neighborhood?
only reasonable answer is "Just remember what you saw today
when you vote in the House of Representatives."
John Boozman took a couple of hours away from a busy schedule to
do a little extra homework Jan. 12, 2004, in the third congressional
district of Arkansas.
visit and 2-mile walk in the watershed of the Town Branch of the
West Fork of the White River fit right in on a day when he had spent
the morning conducting a meeting with agricultural interests from
his district at the University of Arkansas' main campus in Fayetteville.
subject of both meetings was water quality. The morning meeting
at the university focused on the role of farmers in protecting water
quality. The afternoon meeting focused on problems of protecting
an urban watershed.
fact, the two activities were especially closely related because
the urban watershed actually begins on the western portion of the
university campus. All the rain that falls in the valley containing
Razorback Stadium, Bud Walton Arena and several other campus facilities
as well as the water running off the ridge to the north at Cleveland
Street and the mountains to the west and east enters the Town Branch,
flowing first through and near Carlson Terrace married-student housing
complex and from the east campus of Fayetteville High School and
from the parking lots of numerous businesses along Sixth street
and then under the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad less than 100
yards south of Sixth.
90-minute walk offered a sampler of a historic neighborhood long-neglected
but suddenly the target of developers.
permanent sign on the south end of the UA campus near the women's
soccer complex at Sixth Street and South Garland Avenue commemorates
a day when some 1,100 native Americans camped around ponds and springs
near a road leading to what is now Tahlequah, Oklahoma. People in
Fayetteville mostly don't realize that Sixth Street and U.S. 62
were ever a part of the Trail of Tears or that the Butterfield Stage
Route crossed the same road less than a half mile east of the documented
at least three houses on Hill Avenue may have been standing when
the stagecoach rolled downhill from Fayetteville and south on Government
Street to what now has become a very large National Cemetery and
west to Hill Avenue, south to what is now 11th, where it crossed
the Town Branch and then south along what has become South Duncan
Avenue toward Cato Springs Road and south toward Hogeye.
senior members of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association remember
walking from Hill Avenue or South Duncan Avenue along the now-abandoned
east-west railroad and crossing the Town Branch on a trestle to
reach the only remaining spring of several that in the 19th century
provided clean water for hundreds of residents. Sixty-year-olds
remember carrying containers of water home because the spring water
was a bit better than that from even the shallow wells in the watershed
and much better than anything found under some pieces of property
on the slopes.
congressman's walk started from the Church of Christ that stands
where South Hill Avenue runs into Ellis Avenue, which runs southeast
parallel to the Town Branch for a few blocks. Congressman Boozman
and his project director, Steven C. Stewart, used the facilities
of Pastor Scott Gage to do a Super Man-style quick change from business
suits and clean dress shoes to boots and jeans and followed Lauren
Hawkins and Aubrey Shepherd of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association
and Melissa Terry, the conservaton organizer for Arkansas Audubon,
across Town Branch about 100 yards south of 11th Street and into
the yard of Cindy and Stanley Sullins.
Sullins property is an example of a home in an urban watershed that
was built decades ago just a bit too close to the stream. When the
Wilson-Dunn subdivision was created on land formerly the Wilson
Dairy farm and later the Dunn family farm, there was no one to predict
exactly how much new pavement or roof area would be built upstream
in the watershed. The University of Arkansas was growing but the
rate was nothing like it is today.
and grass have been removed for many new and impressive campus facilities.
Fast-food restaurants and other businesses catering to the growing
campus population have been built along Sixth Street.
of hydric or absorbent soil that allowed rain water to soak in slowly
and replenish the shallow underground aquifer disappeared under
concrete and asphalt. One result is increased speed of runoff from
storms. Another is dirtier water running downstream.
builds up during construction despite the best efforts of contractors.
Oil and grease and other pollutants wash downstream from streets
and parking lots. Fertilizer used to maintain athletic fields and
lawns contribute further to making the Town Branch practically unfit
for most forms of aquatic life.
of siltation and pollution are easy to find in the various arms
of the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River.
the arm that begins at the ridge less than a mile north of Sixth
Street on I-540, newly cleared pasture land that historically was
prairie wetland between 15th and 18th streets along Beechwood Avenue
has during the fall of 2003 and winter of 2004 frequently sent mud
into the stream as dirt is moved and an apartment complex begins
to take shape.
the south end of Baum Stadium at George Cole baseball field, the
only storm-water detention pond on the UA campus was polluted as
the ground crew applied fertilizer to hasten the growth of rye grass
to replace the old artificial playing surface. During the summer
of 2003, many people stopped near that pond to watch a pair of Canada
geese raise five goslings. Should the birds return in the spring
of 2004 they likely will find much of the brush gone near the pond,
the grass around the pond mowed as though it were part of the playing
field and the pond covered with algae.
poor quality of the stream's water was documented in October 2003
when scientists on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Stream
Team conducted a creek clinic on the Town Branch about 200 yards
north of 11th Street for residents of the area. The results were
shocking to some of the older residents of the neighborhood, who
remember catching significant-sized game fish from the stream at
a time when they had no qualms about the safety of eating their
there was no time to see all the arms of Town Branch on Jan. 12.
After leaving the Sullins property, through which a small tributary
of the Town Branch flows, the congressman visited a 2.46-acre site
that contains 2 acres of former wetland prairie that has been approved
for development by the planning commission of the City of Fayetteville
and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
area, despite being certified for development if certain conditions
of the city and corps are met, is being considered for purchase
by Fayetteville's Tree and Trail Task Force. Various members of
the Town Branch Neighborhood Association have promised to help maintain
the half-acre nearest South Duncan Avenue as a park for area youngsters
and others have volunteered to begin removing encroaching non-native
vegetation from the 2-acre wetland prairie to encourage regrowth
of the native grass and wildflowers already plentiful in the area
as documented in photo albums on http://www.aubunique.com and elsewhere.
summer, spring and fall, the prairie acres display a vast array
of native wildflowers characteristic of both upland and wetland
prairies in Arkansas and the midwest.
of some of the non-native grass, greenbriers and Japanese honeysuckle
vines could quickly restore the acreage to its natural state and
offer space for a wildflower and bird-watching walk as a 250-yard
side trip connected to the ever-growing city trail system. For many
who walk the neighborhood, it would offer a pleasant alternative
to sidewalks and streets and an ever-changing display of natural
preservation of this wetland, which was never successfully used
for pasture or a hay meadow when the land was adjacent to the Wilson
Dairy farm early in the 20th century, according to some of the area's
oldest residents, now depends on the success of negotiation between
Fayetteville's mayor, Dan Coody and James Mathias, whose plans for
three apartment buildings and parking for some 66 vehicles on the
wetland area already have been approved.
he has federal, state and local approval to "dredge and fill"
the wetland, Mr. Mathias has generously consented to consider selling
the property for the benefit of the neighborhood and other residents
of Fayetteville. The parcel west of South Duncan Avenue between
11th and 12th Streets is particularly important because nearly all
the rain that falls on it soaks in, replenishing the aquifer and
cleansing the water leaving the property, while reducing potential
to the north of the undeveloped 2 acres, Congressman Boozman got
to look out across the site of the recently removed 36-trailer 11th-Street
Trailer Park, where numerous large oak trees and many other species
of hardwoods dot the prairie-wetland landscape between the Town
Branch and the A&M Railroad, which skirts the edge of Rochier
Hill. Next, he and the party followed the railroad to the site near
the south end of the UA campus where the Town Branch flows through
a more-than-century-old culvert lined with native stone far below
the track and then passes under the trestle on the long-abandoned
east-west track that passed through a tunnel beneath the northbound
short walk east put the congressman and his party on Hill Avenue,
from which the recently removed Anderson Trailer Park land is visible
with a couple of old houses still standing on the periphery of the
soon-to-be developed parcel. One house is on the west side of the
South Duncan intersection with Sixth Street. The other is immediately
east of the west end of Anderson Street at Duncan.
childhood residents of that house still live in the Town Branch
neighborhood, three in a 130-year-old two-story home on South Hill
Avenue, the Moody House, and the fourth on South Ellis, a half-mile
southeast on the shore of the Town Branch.
similar and equally old two-story home to the north of the Moody
House has been purchased in a foreclosure sale by the developer
of a proposed subdivision of Town Houses on the combined acreage
of the Anderson and 11th Street trailer parks and is slated to be
removed to make way for new multi-family housing.
Hank Broyles, the new owner of the property, has said he would assist
a nonprofit agency in acquiring and moving the historic building,
no such group with a lot to put it on has stepped forward.
of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association, however, have discussed
the possibilty of its being placed on the .46-acre portion of the
2.46-acre Mathias development site if that land should be purchased
by the Tree and Trail Task Force for the city.
house could be leased to a nonprofit group such as a conservation
group interested in being associated with and promoting the scientific
educational benefits of the 2 acres of wetland prairie to the west
of it. Or it could be leased to a nonprofit with some sort of social
service benefit to the community. The possibilities are many, but
all hinge on successful negotiation of a sale between the city and
idea that could be profitable for the developer and maintain the
integrity of the historic neighborhood would be to rehabilitate
the old house, ironically called the Broyles house for many years
by area residents in honor of a family that lived in it long before
Hank Broyles' father came to Fayetteville to coach Razorback football.
The house could become a beautiful bed-and-breakfast inn for tourists
and people in town for Razorback athletic events, the annual Wal-Mart
Shareholders' meeting, the spring and fall craft-fair weekends at
War Eagle and other attractions.
easy, gently sloped downhill walk took Congressman Boozman past
houses on the east of Hill Avenue that are slated to become part
of the National Cemetery and assorted dwellings on the west side,
including three new homes built by Habitat for Humanity near the
intersection of South Hill Ave. and 11th Street. The three new homes
are on low-lying land less than 75 feet from the Town Branch.
of the houses on the east side that has not been sold to the National
Cemetery support group is older than any of the larger houses further
north on Hill Avenue. Near the old rail right of way to the north
is the showplace of the neighborhood, the Drake House, built in
the 19th century in nearly direct imitation of the design of the
Moody House and the Broyles House that is slated to be removed.
at the church parking lot, the congressman said goodbye to the minister
and made himself available to neighborhood residents who wanted
to visit with him. Larry Smith, a 58-year resident of the west bank
of Town Branch who gets off work a bit earlier than most people
in the neighborhood was on hand to greet the congressman and shared
a few memories of growing up nearby.
it was over. The neighbors walked home. The congressman headed out
to continue his work. Town Branch neighborhood was honored to have
had its chance to be a part of one day in the life of a person who
helps make significant decisions for the whole country and has a
special status as a member of a congressional committee that considers
legislation dealing with watershed issues.
John Boozman's willingness to look closely at local watershed areas
and to listen attentively not only to members of the Neighborhood
Association but also to the plans of the Arkansas Department of
Environmental Quality and Arkansas Audubon for protection and enhancement
of the whole watershed of the West Fork of the White River bodes
well for the future.
officials at all levels of government have diverse responsibility
and answer to constituents with many points of view and wide-ranging
who take time to study all sides of the issues must be appreciated.
They do so at great sacrifice of personal time and comfort. But,
without that sort of effort, good decision-making is impossible.
with water quality in the Ozarks isn't something new for John Boozman.
On his congressional Web site, he provides the following statement:
am committed to clean drinking water for families in every state,
not just Arkansas. I believe this can be accomplished, and I promise
to use my seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee
on Water Resources to see how the federal government can help find
beneficial solutions to our region's problems."
says it all!