When the 94th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature convenes Jan. 9, Stone County will be represented by the third most senior member of the senate and the top ranked Republican in that chamber.
Following redistricting, Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View now represents District 24, which includes Stone, Searcy and Van Buren counties, along with parts of Newton, Cleburne and Faulkner. She has served in the state senate since 2011, previously representing District 18, which involved Stone and eight other counties.
Only Sen. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock and Sen. Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, both Democrats, have more seniority.
Irvin said her district includes very like-minded communities.
“I really wanted the Buffalo River,” she said, and did get a big section of it. She’s been involved in the Buffalo River Conservation Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Irvin ran legislation in 2021 to continue it via statute, adding local officials to the body.
“That committee has really been an excellent example of focusing on an area and the needs of that area and the issues that they’re dealing with, and bringing agencies together to look at something from all these different aspects and angles,” she said.
Numerous departments of the state were involved with interested parties to create a grassroots organization.
“I wanted to be sure that we had every voice at the table,” Irvin said.
Because feral hogs have a huge impact on the watershed, funding has been directed toward their removal.
The committee has also focused on water and wastewater infrastructure with the goal of removing people from septic systems when possible, utilizing federal funding.
Unpaved roads are also a huge issue, and she initiated the Unpaved Roads Program working with Farm Bureau. Roads that are not built correctly cause problems for residents and for counties that try to maintain them, but they also create run-off that deteriorates water quality. Some projects in south Stone County have been funded through this program.
Unpaved roads that serve as access points for tourists who travel to float the Buffalo River were targeted for improvement. Counties do not have resources to maintain the heavily traveled roads that were never designed to handle the level of traffic that tourism creates, she said.
Hawksbill Crag in Newton County also draws visitors but there was no designated parking area and people parked alongside the roads. This issue is one that was addressed by involving federal, state and local people to identify issues.
One of the coolest projects funded through the Buffalo River Conservation Committee, Irvin said, was the Dark Skies Initiative in Gilbert to replace street lights with lighting that would allow for stargazing. The Buffalo National River is designated a “dark sky park” so the project was perfectly aligned with that.
rvin worked with Entergy and the community to help achieve the sought-after ambiance to enhance one of the many reasons people visit the area.
“It’s not just about the water, it’s about the whole infrastructure that supports that park,” she noted.
“For me, it’s been one of the most rewarding endeavors.”
The top issue for projects involving Stone County has been the broadband expansion, something that has spanned the past six years. Irvin served on the steering committee to implement federal Cares Act funding.
Read the full story in the Jan. 4, 2023 issue.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here