Arkadelphia is a great place to call home.
This slogan that looms from the water tower next to Interstate 30 rings true to me. I loved Arkadelphia when I was a college student here in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I love it now. My husband and I moved back in 2000, and we have not regretted our decision. However, as great as Arkadelphia is, it could be better. It is time for Arkadelphia to put its best face forward.
If you have driven downtown lately, you may have noticed the pops of colorful blooms and attractive landscaping at Dawson Cooperative and Young Forever. The ambiance of the trees, shrubs, and lamp posts lining Main and Clinton welcomes visitors and hometown folks alike. Murals adorning our historical river town buildings introduce us to “The Delph.” We are fortunate to have an attractive and active vintage downtown.
Big changes are coming to Pine and 10th streets. Thanks to The Rotary Club of Arkadelphia, visitors are welcomed by attractive signage at all entrances into our town. Ouachita Baptist University’s beautiful Elrod Boulevard beckons visitors to explore the OBU campus. Thanks to a student-led initiative a few years ago, Henderson State University’s overhead bridge received a coat of Reddie red and lettering with “Henderson State University” lettered on the north side and “Arkadelphia – A great place to call home” on the south side. The bridge makes crossing 10th Street much safer for students and gives easy access to the modern Caplinger Airway Sciences Building. (The bridge could use a fresh coat of paint and the replacement of a letter. Donors?) The exquisite Captain Henderson House Bed and Breakfast and the charming Barkman House draw visitors’ attention to the beauty and history of the town.
Several businesses on West Pine have attempted to make their environs more inviting. McDonald’s has invested in professional landscaping which makes visiting or driving through the fast-food chain, well, less like driving through a fast-food chain. Wendy’s has knockout roses and green space inviting weary travelers to stop for a spell. Chicken Express just spruced up for spring. Citizens Bank turned its small green space into a pleasant flower garden. The Rotary Club of Arkadelphia enriched the green space at the I30 exit across from Professional Drive with shrubs and blooms. Kudos to the business owners, managers, and property owners who take pride in the face of our town.
As positive as these examples are, however, Arkadelphia needs some investment from other businesses, property owners, and groups. The corner of Pine and 10th Street has long been an eyesore for Arkadelphia, but a new and improved Tiger Mart opens soon, the attractive Two Rivers Credit Union nurtures its lush lawn, and OBU is developing a modern, green space in front of their appealing new apartments.
There may be plans for beautification and clean up that I am not aware of, but, if not, I urge businesses, individual property owners, the city, and other groups to consider these suggestions:
• The Sonic has rich historical significance. One of the first Sonics to open in Arkansas, college students have been cruising the popular Arkadelphia Sonic for nearly 60 years. The owners could build upon its rich history with vintage signage and landscaped green space. A good marketer could research its history and celebrate its significant milestones. (At least the nonworking stalls could be labeled or repaired!)
• The College Inn has been an eyesore and the butt of bad jokes for many years – far different from its heyday when I was a student at OBU over 50 years ago. Travel reviews found on the internet include telling photos. No visitor wants to stay where they do not feel safe or are approached by vagrants. The owner(s) have an opportunity to invest in clean and attractive renovation, including simple clean up and landscaping. Renovated and modernized motels that embrace their midcentury design are popular now. Imagine what an attraction such a motel would be for Arkadelphia. Pioneer Inn, take note.
• City leaders, your hard work is often thankless; much of your work goes unseen. No doubt, you must prioritize pressing issues that have been underfunded. You have made progress in beautification efforts, and those efforts must continue. We have a charming Town Hall, but, except for the south entrance, it looks awfully bare. A few easy-to-maintain shrubs and outside benches would make the north entrance more welcoming.
• The worst sight in our town is caused by irresponsible home owners and tenants. Is there any accountability for property owners who do not remove trash and junk from their front yards? Are some rental property owners more interested in profit than taking pride in the appearance of their property or safety of tenants? With weekly garbage pick-up and trash removal, there is no excuse for letting refuse accumulate. County, take note.
Arkadelphia has two of the most beautiful and historical college campuses in the state. Professionally designed and maintained landscaping enhances the beauty of OBU’s campus. HSU may be cash-strapped, but its oaks and hollies still whisper of its “beauty and friendship.”
In time, “living waters” will once again flow from the legendary HSU Fountain when it gets a much-needed facelift. Arkadelphia, it is time to put our best face forward and make Arkadelphia a greater place to call home. Putting our best face forward takes financial investment and initiative, easier for some than others. Civic clubs, Greek organizations, social clubs, church groups (like Arms Around Arkadelphia), and college volunteers (Tiger Serve Day and Reddie to Serve Day) will help where there is real need. Recently a group of young male college students wearing “Adopt a Street” vests picked up trash along Hwy 7/67, 10th Street. Let’s follow their example.
— Judy Harrison, professor emeritus, Henderson State University