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Remember when Lake Conway fishing water used to flood only road home near I-40?

by Celia Storey | March 13, 2023 at 2:00 a.m.
Ronnie Moore hooks a small bass in the road while talking to Kevin Dillion who had just driven north on flooded Grassy Lake Road on March 15, 2002. (Democrat-Gazette file photo)

In rural Faulkner County, water released from Lake Conway used to routinely flood the only access to a residential neighborhood off Interstate 40 in the woods east of Mayflower.

To come and go from their houses, the 150 or so residents of Rogers Country Estate had to illegally access Interstate 40 by climbing the bank of the interstate and driving directly onto the westbound roadway, bypassing highway exits or even a road.

For years, residents told any official who stood still long enough to listen that they needed an elevated road and a new bridge over Palarm Creek. But a jumble of entities had jurisdiction in their problem. Faulkner and Pulaski counties, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the state Highway and Transportation Department all had interests surrounding the subdivision.

Estate resident Kevin Dillon told the Democrat-Gazette then that no agency appeared willing to claim responsibility for a community that lived and paid taxes in one county, depended on a road maintained by another county for access and was sandwiched between the state-owned Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area and a state-controlled interstate. The Arkansas National Guard also bore some responsibility for limiting access to nearby Camp Robinson.

Ironically, the dam water was released under a plan to reduce flooding by lowering the lake level by a foot between November and April. Fifteen gates allowed rising waters to spill into Palarm Creek just south of the lake's dam during heavy rains. If more than three gates were open at the same time, Grassy Lake Road sank beneath the water, becoming impassable within hours.

In 2001, the subdivision was isolated more than 40 days because of flooding, said Shari Campbell, an outspoken resident.

This was the situation until 2002, when concerns about fish health and habitat caused 2,000 Lake Conway residents and businessmen to sign a petition demanding an end to the practice of lowering the lake.

But the practice couldn't end until the Rogers Estate's flooding problem was solved.

Campbell got on her phone, and Highway Commissioner Carl Rosenbaum joined her in a concerted effort to recruit funds for an elevated road and a new bridge. Game and Fish contributed $242,000; the highway department contributed its engineering expertise; the state contributed $75,000; the residents came up with $60,000; the Arkansas National Guard provided the dirt; Pulaski County contributed six flatbed railroad cars for the bridge structure and Faulkner County committed to maintaining it.

In summer 2004, the $380,000 bridge opened, and in December officials named it the Shari D. Campbell Bridge.

Print Headline: Remember when, Arkansas?


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