Jill M. Rohrbach
To become a finalist, Bentonville completed an application documenting two community projects that address the most pressing challenges and one addressing community youth. Between 2000 and 2006, Bentonville’s population increased by 45 percent. This created pressure and stress on the city’s services and facilities. Bentonville’s application identified the challenges of managing and guiding growth, combined with financing the cost of new infrastructure and services needed to meet increasing demand. This is the first year Bentonville has applied for the award.
Bentonville selected two projects that went hand-in-hand to address community challenges. First, the City of Bentonville led a community effort to develop the city’s General Plan, which established long-term goals and policies. Second, Mayor Bob McCaslin garnered support for an extension of the city’s one-cent sales tax in order to issue bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements. The policies in the Plan, coupled with the funding, made it possible for the city spend more than $26 million to increase capacity on four miles of roadway currently under construction; nearly $5 million to begin construction on the city’s flagship park, Orchard Park open a neighborhood park, and make significant improvements to Memorial Park. Nearly $3 million allowed for communications and public safety improvements for the Police and Fire Departments, and the Municipal Airport was able to provide matching funds for grants to improve airport safety and access.
For its youth project, Bentonville described its library children’s programming. When the new Bentonville Public Library opened in 2006, less than 700 people were attending library programs. By 2009, the library hosted nearly 17,000 showings, book clubs and special events. A children’s librarian was hired in 2007, and more than 2,000 volunteer hours by teens were documented in 2009. In that same year, more than 23,000 students benefited from collaboration with local educators.
The NCL is a 116-year-old nonpartisan nonprofit organization that strengthens democracy by increasing the capacity of our nation’s people to fully participate in and build healthy and prosperous communities across America. Since the All-America City Awards’ inception in 1949, more than 500 communities have won the distinction.
The All-America City Awards will be held in Kansas City, Mo. on June 18. Check out the City of Bentonville online at Bentonville.org.
The small-town feel of Bentonville belies the corporate energy of the international headquarters of Wal-Mart’s Stores Inc. located near the heart of the city. A main attraction on the square is the Wal-Mart Visitors Center. The center is housed in Sam Walton’s original variety store, which now traces the origin and growth of Wal-Mart. The center was created as an educational and informative facility about this American retailing success story.
The City of Bentonville was established in 1837 with a population of 30 and incorporated in 1873 with a population of 500. Today, Bentonville is home to about 34,000 people and is visited by hundreds of vendors to Wal-Mart, which was founded by Sam Walton.
In the northwest corner of the state, Bentonville is adjacent to Rogers and Bella Vista, and is 30 miles from Fayetteville. It is five miles from Pea Ridge National Military Park, 19 miles from Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, and 38 miles from Eureka Springs.