Of course, here in the Natural State, trash is just something we live with, and it’s part of who we are, or our roadsides wouldn’t look like a city dump. Yes, this column is going to rub some folks the wrong way, but the facts are that we turn a blind eye to all the trash around us, when instead we should be appalled by the mountains of trash that line our roads and city streets.
Yes, we are living in trash, and seemly, we don’t give a rat’s ass. (Forgive my colorful language, but I think you get the point.) But what is even more destressing is that we have the potential to be a lush, vibrant state with gorgeous trees, shrubs, plants and beautiful roadsides.
I know I’ve told this story before, but a number of years ago we were in Switzerland and we ended up in a small town where they were having a Military Parade. It was historic back to crossbows and lances and went forward right up to Swiss Special Forces. We loved it, but something happened that stuck in my mind. Midway through the parade I saw a young girl who looked about 10 years old walk over to a vendor and buy an ice cream bar.
The ice cream was wrapped and when she unwrapped it she looked for a trash can to put the wrapper. There wasn’t one in sight, so she neatly folded the wrapper and put it in her pocket. When the parade was over and we were leaving I noticed there wasn’t a scrap of trash where thousands of people had stood and watched the parade. Contrast that to the way any of our festival grounds look after the festival is over. I was Festival Chairman of El Dorado’s MusicFest for five years, and after each festival trash was everywhere.
But festival trash is nothing compared to the roadside trash I see when I do my walk-jog on the 167 bypass in El Dorado. There are some stretches, usually when there’s an exit that in less than a hundred yards, where there is every imaginable piece of trash. Let me just say this; there is very little trash that some people won’t throw out of their car or pickup truck. I am shocked at what I see every day when I walk, and I have a theory—-Driving from a convenience store on North West Avenue in El Dorado to the stop sign on Calion Road—-by my house, is the time it takes some folks to drink a Bud Light. I’ve been thinking about putting up a trash can with a beer can target.
Well, we and I include myself, have gotten so used to living with trash, we seemly don’t see it. There must be a word for it, since someone who can’t see color is called colorblind. Maybe it is “trash insensitive” or “garbage-blind” or maybe just “crap-blind” or maybe we’re saying, “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of trash. So what.”
Come on folks, drunks can’t sober up until they say, “I’m a drunk,” and we can’t have a quality state until we call trash “trash” and then start doing something about it. So do something! At least let your voice be heard, and heard and heard again, until folks stop lining our roads with beer cans, plastic bottles, and plastic straws, and then maybe we can actually do something about the appalling condition of our towns. Bare ugly streets with stores that haven’t seen a paint-brush in 40 years lining potholed streets with utility poles taking the place of trees, and parking lots that must be in an ugly contest along with abandoned signs and overgrown weedy lots. I’m not talking about someone else’s town, I’m talking about your town, and my town, and here in El Dorado, we have a couple of real eyesore streets. By far one of the ugliest streets in the state or probably the mid-south is Hillsboro Street, Highway 82 Business, and yes, I know the Highway Department has great plans to widen the street, but give me a break. Those plans have been on the books longer than a coon‘s age, and for you city folks, that’s about 10 years. Well, what will we have when it’s finished? You guessed it. A wide, ugly street.
It seems we have a blind eye to trash, and blank treeless parking lots and rundown buildings. Of course, the rat’s nest of utility lines that need to go underground and hundreds of God awful signs really put an exclamation point to say, “Trashy streets are us”. Of course, El Dorado is certainly not the only town in the Natural State with crappy street scenes. Sure landscaping does cost a few bucks, but National Surveys have proven the money spent on trees or landscaping is paid back by increased business in the retail stores that line those streets. Now I know we’re not going to see a lot of painting and sprucing up along our ugly streets, but how about just planting some crepe myrtle trees? And for God’s sake, don’t chop them off every year. Crepe myrtle aren’t poodle bushes, they are trees that will get to be 30 feet tall, so, quit “crepe murder.”
But let’s get real. The reason we have such God-awful, bone-ugly streets in every town in the state is because we put up with those eyesores, and it’s not just city streets, it’s every median along our four lane highways. Those mowed highway median right-of-ways are just one step away from being a bare parking lot. You probably think our mowed right-of-ways are how right-of ways should look, but you would be wrong. When Louisiana, Texas, and even Mississippi start making our highways right-of-ways look bad, then you know we’re making Arkansas Highways the poster child for ugliness. We have hundreds of miles of highway medians where planting trees should be a priority instead of mow, mow, and of course you don’t ever have to worry about driving off the road and hitting a tree because the Highway Department clears way more right-of-way than needed.
Every state around us is into highway beatification more than we are, and we don’t measure up. My Lord, when Mississippi can say, “Well, we’re at least better than Arkansas,” you know we’re in the running to be last. Yes, I know we have a Highway Environmental Engineer, but he or she is like the President lying about Global Warming, as he or she lies, “We have beautiful highway right-of-ways.”
You know, maybe those men on the Highway Commission could use a woman to help with highway beautification, but I guess the Governor is saying “There are no qualified women to put on the Commission.” Or maybe he’s saying “This is a male only Commission.” or “Women don’t want to be on the Highway Commission.” Which is it Governor?
But let me just say this: a big atta-a-boy to the governor for putting a woman on the Game and Fish Commission. That only took a 100 years, so I guess one day one of the governor’s grandchildren will finally put a woman on the Highway Commission.