Teresa Marks, director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), presented the award to store owners Brad and Vien Wimberly at Friday’s regular meeting of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission at the ADEQ Headquarters Building in North Little Rock.
Standing at the junction of Arkansas 23 and the Mulberry River about 10 miles north of Ozark, the Turner Bend store is a century old. An iconic feature of the river, Turner Bend sells provisions and gas, and is a Mulberry River outfitter, renting out canoes, kayaks and rafts. Cabins and campsites are available too. But, throughout the century it has been much more than its physical function. It embodies community and a sense of place.
Wimberly has owned the store for 30 years and for more than 20 years has organized cleanup operations along the Mulberry River and the surrounding area near his store, as well as sponsored or participated in various other activities to improve the environment in that part of the state.
“The annual Mulberry cleanup involves an average of 130 volunteers who usually pick up a ton or more of trash each year along a 40-mile stretch of the river between the towns of Oark in northern Johnson County and Mulberry near the Franklin-Van Buren County line, as well as along highways, county roads, Forest Service roads, and various back roads in the Mulberry watershed,” according to an ADEQ press release.
“In addition, the store coordinates litter cleanups four times a year as part of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s Adopt-a-Mile program on two miles of State Highway 23; partners with the Cass Job Corps Center to pick up litter between Cass and Interstate 40; and has worked with organizers of the annual Wakarusa Music Festival near Ozark to coordinate litter cleanups along roads leading to the festival site.
“Working with the Conservation Reserve Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the store has also planted oak trees on 33 acres adjacent to its new Round the Bend campground; is sponsoring construction of one of seven large interpretive signs being placed by the U.S. Forest Service along State Highway 215; and assisted in replacing old railroad crosstie steps with rock steps at the Campbell Cemetery access point on the Mulberry.
“’Small businesses have always been the backbone of the economy in the United States, but as Brad Wimberly and the Turner Bend Store have demonstrated, they can also be big players in preserving and protecting our natural resources,’ Marks said. ‘Every year we always have a broad cross-section of nominees and finalists for the ENVY Award, representing major industries, cities and counties, non-profit organizations, and small business owners. It’s never an easy decision to choose the winner, but we are always happy to be presented with that dilemma.’”
The other finalists for the 2013 Envy Award were:
- Beaver Water District, for development of an environmental education program for school children in the northwest Arkansas area focusing on the importance of maintaining a high level of water quality in the region’s principal public drinking water supply.
- The City of Fayetteville and the CH2M HILL engineering firm for significantly reducing operating expenses and the need to landfill biosolids generated by the city’s wastewater treatment plant, while also producing high-quality fertilizer products utilized by agricultural operations in northwest Arkansas.
- Goodwill Industries of Arkansas for its comprehensive statewide recycling program that has diverted millions of pounds of materials–including potentially hazardous electronic wastes–from landfills every year since 2008.
- Pratt and Whitney’s aircraft engine parts manufacturing facility at Springdale for a pollution prevention program designed to save electricity and operating expenses, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2005 the Department of Environmental Quality has honored companies and individuals for their continued efforts to protect and enhance the environment in extraordinary ways. These innovating projects and programs show that even one company or one person can make a difference in protecting Arkansas.