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Keeping Arkansas Beautiful

In 1995, Arkansas officially changed its nickname to “The Natural State.”

What could be more fitting? Arkansas is a land known for its clear rivers and lakes, abundant wildlife, lush valleys, plains and woodlands. Arkansas has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful states in the country. That’s something we can be proud of. But nothing spoils spending time in the Arkansas outdoors quite like litter.

When I was a boy, I remember President Kennedy urging Americans to live more active lives by challenging us to take a 50-mile hike. At the age of 12, I took the President’s charge to the nation as a personal challenge. So I began a 30-mile footrace from Springdale to Gravette.

This is a beautiful area with fertile plains and forest, sitting at the foothills of the Ozarks. But one of the things I remember most during that 30-mile walk, other than the exhaustion that hit me around mile 16, was my sadness at seeing pieces of litter strewn along the road as I walked.

When I think of that experience, I think not only of the beauty of the Ozarks, but also the litter. That’s not the way I want to remember being outdoors in Arkansas.

I’m sure you feel the same way.

Last month, more than 200 volunteers took part in the Great Arkansas River Cleanup. These volunteers contributed more than 767 hours picking up trash at eight locations along the Arkansas River.

Each cleanup event was organized by community leaders in Ozark, Van Buren, Russellville, Fort Smith, Little Rock and North Little Rock, but any group or organization in Arkansas can register for one in their community as well. In the end, the Great Arkansas River Cleanup removed 7,700 pounds of litter from the Arkansas River. That’s good … But it’s also too much litter.

The Arkansas River provides navigable waters for commerce, recreation, and some of the best fishing in the country. It’s our responsibility to keep it clean to provide a better Natural State for visitors and Arkansans alike. We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to take care of what God has blessed us with. Plus, statistics show that clean communities have a better chance of attracting greater economic development. Keeping our state clean is good business.

That’s on us, Arkansas. Together, let’s keep Arkansas beautiful — and natural. 

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