Comedian Rodney Dangerfield often said, "I don't get no respect." And after reading another commentary covering every area of the state except south Arkansas, I know how Rodney, who died in 2004, must have felt.
It's like south Arkansas doesn't even exist. It's ignored by writers and TV weathercasters. The praises of Little Rock, Jonesboro, and northwest Arkansas say quality of life has to do with getting bigger, and the future of a better quality of life is all about adding population and creating more jobs, which means more people and more people and more people.
Is that really what quality of life is all about? And since we're on the low end of the grow-grow category, we're treated as if Lower Arkansas is reverting back to territorial status, one step away from being a wilderness again. Will the last one to leave LA please turn out the lights?
Bigger with more people doesn't equal a better quality of life. Here in El Dorado, it's five minutes to and from everywhere, instead of getting stuck in clogged roads where a workday is nine-plus hours instead of eight.
Quality is not about being bigger, but being better, and being better means having a more rewarding life with as little stress as possible.
We're not just five minutes from our home to our workplace or Walmart; we're five minutes from the best deer hunting in the state, and our heavily wooded countryside laced with rivers, lakes and streams makes LA a fishing paradise.
El Dorado has the best downtown in the mid-South. That's not bragging. It's a fact. Tree-lined streets that lead to quality restaurants and an entertainment venue are easily walkable. We have the largest children's playground/water park in the state, which is also a short walk from our award-winning downtown.
I guess you might wonder about educational opportunities. Let's look at an Arkansas family with four kids, who all want to attend college and possible do graduate work. Put those kids in college for five years. Do the math! You are going to need something around $200,000 just for tuition--unless you live in the El Dorado School District, where your kid's college tuition is paid, courtesy of Murphy Oil, made possible by a $50 million education grant.
If your kids graduate from the new state-of-the-art El Dorado High School, the El Dorado Promise pays your tuition, based on the top tuition of any non-private school in the state, and you can go to any accredited school in the country.
Like to play golf? El Dorado has three courses, including Mystic Creek, one of the best in the state as ranked by touring pros.
But maybe you're enamored of historic buildings that surround the biggest and best-looking courthouse in the state, where the entire downtown is a historic district. The oil gusher that changed a sleepy farm and timber community of 3,500 people that cold day in January 1921 made it possible to have that gorgeous courthouse, three magnificent churches, and a college-quality football stadium.
Oil money also created some of the best neighbors a community could imagine having in Murphy USA, Murphy Oil, PotlatchDeltic, Systems Contracting, and Delek Refining. Companies that have and continue to give to their community. We get quality-of-life points for having good corporate citizens.
The Murphy Arts District, adjacent to downtown, is Phase One of the El Dorado Festivals and Events' ambitious $100 million destination project. A 70-room boutique hotel is rising from a parking lot just across the street from what will be an impressive four-level art museum. Next door will be a total renovation of Arkansas' wonderful Art Deco movie theater, the Rialto, which will become a glistening Broadway playhouse.
Phase One has solved a lack of quality entertainment with the Griffin Cabaret, First Financial Music Hall, and Griffin Amphitheater. Excellent entertainment is now a weekly occurrence, from Hank Williams Jr. to the South Arkansas Symphony.
When Phase Two is finished, the 20-block core of downtown El Dorado will have all the features that today's skilled workers are looking for. Contrast that to packed eight-lane freeways with hour-long commutes and our five-minutes-from-everywhere looks better and better.
Is south Arkansas loaded with quality-of-life points? What do you think?
Email Richard Mason at [email protected]
Editorial on 08/25/2019