In right di­rec­tion

Odds and ends

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Mike Master­son Mike Master­son is a long­time Arkansas jour­nal­ist. Email him at mmas­ter­son@arkansason­

Leave it to the Wal­ton Foun­da­tion to step up with a con­tri­bu­tion to­ward help­ing re­solve the con­tro­ver­sial plan for what to do with the failed Bella Vista Lake dam.

The in­ad­e­quate dam has had plenty of crit­ics who be­lieve the best plan is to set Lit­tle Sugar Creek, which feeds the lake, free to once again me­an­der through the com­mu­nity where its charms can be ap­pre­ci­ated.

But oth­ers want to re­store this dys­func­tional dam that’s been topped four times since 2008, us­ing mostly fed­eral money for such a project es­ti­mated to cost nearly $4 mil­lion. The hand-wring­ing has con­tin­ued for years.

And now the Wal­ton Foun­da­tion has given a $98,960 grant to the city of Ben­tonville (which gladly ac­cepted) to re­tain Eco­log­i­cal De­sign Group and the Wa­ter­shed Re­source Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter to de­velop a plan that might fi­nally re­solve ev­ery­one’s ar­gu­ment through cre­ative changes to the way this lake looks, while pre­serv­ing the am­bi­ence of the creek.

In­ter­est­ing how an in­fu­sion of fi­nan­cial re­sources can clear a path for bet­ter ideas and un­der­stand­ing. So count me among those con­grat­u­lat­ing the foun­da­tion and both sides of the de­bate for see­ing this wel­come de­vel­op­ment as a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Be­cause com­pro­mise and cre­ativ­ity of­ten pro­vide the first one.

Sanc­tions re­main

It’s good to see newly ap­pointed 20th Ju­di­cial District Pros­e­cu­tor Luke Fer­gu­son agree with his pre­de­ces­sor, Cody Hi­land, in de­ter­min­ing sanc­tions against the com­mu­nity of Da­m­as­cus as a speed trap should re­main through 2018.

The ques­tion as to how long the town will re­main un­der those sanc­tions arose af­ter the gov­er­nor re­cently ap­pointed Fer­gu­son to re­place Hi­land, who is now the U.S. at­tor­ney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The orig­i­nal sanc­tions were to run un­til Hi­land’s elected term ex­pired on Dec. 31, 2018. Fer­gu­son’s ap­point­ment runs through the same date.

We drove though Da­m­as­cus along U.S. 65 the other day. The cruise con­trol yet again was set for a mile be­neath the posted speed limit. We ran that for­mer gant­let of blue lights with­out see­ing fa­mil­iar city pa­trol cars with ex­as­per­ated mo­torists pulled over at either end of town.

Story re­ver­ber­ates

An in­ter­est­ing as­pect of the news­pa­per busi­ness is never know­ing what ef­fect your words might have on oth­ers, even nearly a half-cen­tury af­ter pub­lish­ing them.

Back in Novem­ber 1973, shortly af­ter join­ing the staff of the Hot Springs Sen­tinel Record, I wrote a lengthy fea­ture story about the pau­per’s field, called Sun­ny­side, in that com­mu­nity.

Head­lined “Death with­out dig­nity, a wretched end to suf­fer­ing,” the story de­scribed the all-but-for­got­ten viney hill­side field owned by the city where un­told hun­dreds of home­less and for­got­ten peo­ple had been in­terred since the late 1880s.

Some with­out rel­a­tives or any­one who cared were still be­ing laid to rest in pine boxes we pho­tographed and de­scribed. Many graves re­main un­marked to­day. Some do bear small mark­ers, while dozens of oth­ers were iden­ti­fied with alu­minum name­plates.

Karen White and her hus­band Brian of Hot Springs hap­pened across the 44-year-old story and, be­ing an avid ge­neal­o­gist, she used it to be­gin re­search­ing the place. Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­searchers and vol­un­teers have since spent many hours at Sun­ny­side in at­tempts to ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine just how many are in­terred, where, and for how long.

Flash for­ward to to­day and Karen says (with the city’s per­mis­sion) she is nom­i­nat­ing this five-acre hill­side still main­tained largely by hun­gry goats who’ll con­sume any­thing green, for the Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

As for the city’s re­spon­si­bil­ity? Its lead­ers are still de­cid­ing af­ter more than a cen­tury (and sev­eral sub­se­quent news ac­counts) what to do with that space. Fenc­ing and reg­u­lar main­te­nance can get mighty ex­pen­sive.

Karen say she and oth­ers vi­su­al­ize a serene, park­like set­ting with flow­er­ing bushes and a sim­ple land­scape.

I’m bet­ting most Arkansas com­mu­ni­ties have grave­yards sim­i­lar to Sun­ny­side, con­sid­er­ing how many peo­ple in ev­ery town die alone and im­pov­er­ished.

Pres­i­den­tial speak

Crit­ics can say what they please about Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump’s of­ten awk­ward and con­sid­er­ably less than elo­quent man­ner of speak­ing. He in­deed does his share of rep­e­ti­tious word-man­gling.

But I was re­minded the other night while watch­ing Ken Burns’ out­stand­ing doc­u­men­tary on Viet­nam of for­mer Demo­crat Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son’s cringe­wor­thy back­woods way of ex­press­ing him­self.

I watched the Texan re­peat­edly re­fer to Viet­nam as “Vit­nam,” and re­mem­bered his shock­ing re­ported com­ments about hav­ing black Amer­i­cans (ex­cept he used the dis­parag­ing N word) vot­ing Demo­crat for­ever be­cause of his civil rights leg­is­la­tion. Out­ra­geous? You bet.

Also, Repub­li­can Ge­orge Bush 43 cer­tainly could be quite the man­gler in his pub­lic com­ments of­ten laced with, well, phras­ings that made him sound dense. I’m sure we’ve had many pres­i­dents whose strong­est qual­i­ties didn’t lie in pub­lic speak­ing.

So while Trump’s re­marks of­ten are less than flow­ing and ar­tic­u­late, I don’t see him as that un­usual for a pres­i­dent, con­sid­er­ing our his­tory.

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