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BENTONVILLE — The Cherokee Nation and Trail of Tears Association are concerned about a proposed limestone quarry that would be 900 feet from a section of the trail, according to letters from both.

Benton County’s Planning Board voted 6-1 to table the project indefinitely at a meeting Dec. 19. The board wanted more information concerning the Trail of Tears and whether the area has any other historical significance. The board also tabled the proposal Nov. 7 and Dec. 5 because more information was needed from the applicant.

Red dirt is taken from the Cross Hollows mine at 1425 N. Old Wire Road. The area is just northeast of Lowell. Parts of the 135 acres owned by David Covington are laid out in sections of 10 acres. Each 10-acre parcel represents a five-year operating period for the proposed limestone production, according to the Planning Department’s executive summary on the project.

Anchor Stone from Tulsa would lease the land and quarry the stone.

“The segment of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail at the Cross Hollows site in Lowell is a rare gem in the Arkansas landscape,” reads the letter from Jack D. Baker, president of the national Trail of Tears Association.

“It has excellent integrity and retains the physical characteristics of an early 19th century roadbed. Because of these attributes, this segment of the Cherokee Removal Route is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The same roadbed is also associated with the Butterfield Trail and the Civil War.”

Baker’s letter dated Dec. 1 says the trail segment is 900 feet from the proposed project and, “the project’s access not only crosses the trail, but includes this segment for transporting material from the project site.”

Taylor Reamer, Benton County planning director, received the letter Dec. 3.

Baker’s letter says the association and the Cherokee Nation recommend that the applicant do a cultural resources survey, “which will consider potential direct and indirect effects if a limestone quarry is allowed.”

A letter from the Cherokee Nation to Reamer stressed many of the same points as Baker’s.

“The State of Arkansas has an opportunity to consider and protect a significant and historic resource,” Elizabeth Toombs, tribal historic preservation officer, wrote in a Nov. 30 letter. Reamer received the letter the same day. The letters from Baker and the Cherokee Nation were available to the Planning Board at its Dec. 19 meeting. The Cherokee Nation document was also available for the Dec. 5 Planning Board meeting because it was submitted on the supplemental information deadline of Nov. 30, Reamer said.

A letter dated Nov. 30 from Preserve Arkansas Executive Director Rachel Patton to Reamer backed the Cherokees’ concern.

“Cross Hollows is historically significant for many reasons and is sacred to the Cherokee, whose ancestors traveled along the path of the Old Wire Road as they neared the end of their journey to Indian Territory,” the letter reads.

The trail commemorates the forced removal of the Cherokee from the southeastern United States to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839, according to the Trail of Tears Association website.

The Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction covers 14 counties in northeastern Oklahoma, according to its website.

Reamer said the applicant needs to complete a road agreement, a historical and cultural significance study, a private drinking water source warranty and an environmental impact assessment.

Bill Watkins, the attorney for Covington, said the items listed by Reamer are being worked on. Watkins said he hoped the quarry proposal would be back before the Planning Board in a few months.

“Our goal is to keep this thing moving,” he said.

Watkins said at the Dec. 19 meeting the planners’ job is to make sure regulations and procedures are followed and their decisions shouldn’t be impacted by politics or public sentiment.

Many residents who live in the area have expressed concerns about possible well water contamination, noise from blasting and increased heavy truck traffic on Old Wire Road to the Planning Board and through email and phone calls to the Benton County Planning Department and County Judge Barry Moehring’s office.

Lowell’s City Council approved a resolution in December opposing the quarry.

Watkins said at the Dec. 19 meeting the property has been used as a limestone quarry and other mining.

“Historically, this property has been a source of natural resources,” he said.

It’s estimated 35 to 50 dump trucks a day would haul limestone from the quarry, depending on the size and location of a particular project, Tim Sorey with Sand Creek Engineering said. Sand Creek represents Anchor Stone at the Planning Board meetings. A loaded truck would weigh more than 20 tons, Sorey said. The limestone would be used for area road work.

A rock crusher and blasting are part of the project, according to planning documents. Blasting would be done once a month. Blasting usually happens in the late morning or early afternoon, Sorey said.

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