First Impressions


Well, the buzz is spreading. Yes, the MAD (Murphy Arts District’s) opening week buzz is taking off. Folks are scrambling to get tickets, and they’re flying off the shelf. We’ve loaded up, and I can’t wait. The buzz is already spreading through the mid-south, and after the MAD promotion group’s advertising recent soiree through New York City, national publications will pick up the story, and we can expect the September 27th grand opening to be eagerly awaited by thousands from all over the country who will roll into El Dorado. And it will continue week after week, as top flight entertainment and great food pulls in the crowds.

Of course, as I have said before, these several hundred thousand guys and gals coming to the entertainment district will bring a healthy boost to the overall state’s economy, and a real uptick to South Arkansas. Yes, El Dorado will be the destination for thousands, and we hope some of those several hundred thousand festival goers will like El Dorado so much they’ll move here, and up-tic the economic growth and reverse our population decline. I’m convinced, if we take advantage of this influx, South Arkansas will see a new boom that will rival the 1920s oil boom.

However, we may have a little problem as we try to give our visitors a good first impression. Uh, well maybe more than a little problem. So what about first impressions? Do they matter? I met Vertis, my wife, while swimming in the Smackover Swimming Pool. Did she make a good first impression? Well, we’ve been married longer than I can remember, so I would say Vertis in a swimsuit made an excellent first impression. Now, let’s just do a “what if”. What if Vertis had looked like North West Avenue in that swimsuit? Well, I would probably have ended up a confirmed bachelor living in a Greek Monastery. So just for a moment let’s say Mabelle and Billy Ray Jones from Tulsa arrive to see ZZ Top, and they drive into El Dorado on North West Avenue. I can hear them now: “Look, Billy Ray, they have a giant, abandoned Wendy’s sign. I wonder if they have a historical marker, and oh, look; I’ll bet they don’t have to worry about mowing all those blank parking lots.” “That right Mabelle, and see all those electrical lines. I’ll just bet all those stores have electricity, and just check out this turn lane. It’s a turn lane as far as the eye can see. Wow, this looks like a town we might want to relocate to.” Or maybe they might say, “My God, Billy Ray, have you ever seen anything so ugly? Speed up and check this eyesore off our list.”

Okay, now we’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly, so how can we turn ugly North West Avenue into Vertis in her swimsuit? I guess that requires some action by the Mayor and the City Council. Yes, of course it does, and that begs the question: If North West Avenue is such an eyesore why hasn’t the City, and/or the City Council done anything about it? Yes, they will mumble something like “We don’t have the money.” But I’ve offered to buy 50 crepe myrtle trees, and all the city has to do is plant them in the green space along the street. Nope, they won’t take me up on my offer, and I would just bet, with a little work, I could line up several hundred trees to be donated. The city owns the right-of-way on both sides of the street, and nothing can keep the city from planting trees or other landscaping, which will cover up some of the ugly. But it’s not just the Mayor and Public Works Director; the City Council can pass a sign ordinance, similar to the one that disappeared from the books, and they can also take a page from Fayetteville and pass a landscaping ordinance to green up those blank ugly parking lots.

Of course, killing the endless turn lane on North West Avenue is almost just too much to hope for, but what if the turn lane was landscaped all the way from Hillsboro to the bypass intersection, with just a few breaks across it? Yes, that’s a big job, but it’s the right thing to do. If El Dorado Festivals and Events can spend a hundred million dollars to add 500 jobs and thousands to our population, it seems the city could at least give us a fighting chance to attract permanent residents by sprucing up the eyesore of South Arkansas, North West Avenue. If you agree that North West Avenue needs a face lift, then every time you see the Mayor or a City Council Person, tell them to get busy and do something about the eyesore of South Arkansas.

Richard H. Mason of El Dorado is a syndicated columnist and author and former president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and the state Pollution Control & Ecology Commission.

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