Jill M. Rohrbach
In case you missed it in the news, there’s a lot going on along the Arkansas River this week. The Arkansas River Revival Flotilla is in the middle of a 10-day float trip up and down the river. From Oct. 20-29, 17 privately-owned yachts, house boats and cruisers comprise the flotilla traveling the links of the McClellan Kerr Navigation System from Pendleton to Fort Smith.
Today those boats docked at the City of Ozark and were treated to a community event involving food, drink, politicians, speakers, and hospitality galore. What’s the point of all of this you may wonder? Revival.
The flotilla is highlighting the need for further economic development along the Arkansas River. President Richard Nixon dedicated the Arkansas River Navigation System 40 years ago. At that time it was the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Today the system is responsible for nearly $2 billion in trade transportation in Arkansas annually.
The river’s potential to provide an even better and brighter economic future for each community along this waterway as well as the state as a whole is great. Some of the economic development goals this flotilla trip hopes to call attention to include:
1) Deepening the Rivers channel from 9 feet to 12 feet to enhance shipping volume (note that only 6% is not 12 feet)
2) Increasing barge traffic
3) Furthering water-based recreational activities such as boating and fishing
4) Redeveloping and improving ports
5)Enhancing and creating new recreational facilities along the river
6) Supporting local marinas and city festivals and events
Today I was fortunate enough to ride on the fabulous Southwind II, a 78-foot yacht owned by Wayne Woods of Little Rock. It was perhaps the most beautiful day of this fall season. Riding on the yacht, soaking in the sun, feeling the breeze, and laughing and talking with friends and new acquaintances is a day I’d love to live again. It was a perfect day on the Arkansas River – the fall foliage, bluffs, the relaxation, the smiles.
We need more marinas along this navigational system. It’s the classic “if you build it they will come” scenario. It would bring new industry, increased jobs, more commerce, tourism. How fun would it be to drive the river by boat, rented or owned, and stop along the way at marinas, shops, restaurants, bait and tackle stores, and scenic locales.
How can you be involved? Founded in 2003 the Arkansas River Connections is a nonprofit association organized by like-minded citizens to promote activity and tourism attractions along the Arkansas River throughout the state while also endorsing the conservation, recreational, historical, and cultural amenities. Be a part of this advocacy network. Send this information – Name. Address, City, State, Zip, Phone, Fax, E-mail, and why you are interested to Montine@arhospitality.org or mail to AHA, P.O. Box 3866, Little Rock, AR 72203. Indicate your interest or interests in either Tourism Development Issues and/or Arkansas River 12 Foot Depth Issue. Also list any special relationships you have with State or U.S. Senators and Representatives.