T-Town: Texarkana Town or Trash Town

A recent photo of Bobby Ferguson Park.

It seems that the old “T-Town” reference to Texarkana may mean “Trash Town” for the Arkansas side of town.  If you drive down the north side of Stateline Cemetery, you cannot help but notice litter along the fence line.  It seems to blow into the fenced area and become trapped there.  If this was the only area of town, then it might be a unique issue, but unfortunately for Texarkana, Arkansas it is not the only area.  

I had been noticing trash around Texarkana, Arkansas for some time.  Not only was the cemetery area on Stateline affected, but I was seeing it downtown, along the main streets and even on less-traveled streets in Texarkana.  The trash seemed to range from aluminum cans, to drink cups, to plates, to paper, and even entire bags of household trash at some places.  To further the issue, it seems to be everywhere.  So I decided to experiment. 

On September 4th, I got into my trusted pickup truck with my son, and we drove around Texarkana.  We targeted the main roads for the Arkansas side.  On Stateline, we quickly found that we could not go even a half a block without seeing trash either on the road or on the property beside the road.  I traveled from the Federal Courthouse downtown clear to the Interstate.  I could not find one single block, or half-block for that matter, where some form of trash was not on the ground.  I then traveled Arkansas Boulevard, and it was not surprising to find the same level of trash along both sides of the road there.  For Arkansas Boulevard, I went from Stateline to the loop access.  For Jefferson, I traveled from I-30 to Arkansas High, and for County, I moved from Kline Park to I-30.  Surprisingly, the results of this little experiment were all the same.  Trash could be found within every single block of those roads. 

After noting all the places where the trash was located, my son commented that we could quickly fill up the back of the truck and more with all the trash.  Sadly, I had to agree with him.  Apparently “T-Town” now means “Trash Town” for those of us living on the Arkansas side. 

The question should be, “Who is at fault for this trash?”  Should the city be cleaning it up?  Should property owners along the way clean it?  Should organizations such as the City Beautiful Commission clean it up?  Should local church and youth organizations clean it up?  Where should we look for someone to clean it up?

The facts are simple.  The city does not have the employees to keep the city clean.  Often city employees are mowing vacant or abandoned lots.  They have assigned areas to water and care for around the town, and they have several parks to maintain as well as streets and other duties.  The fact is the city employees do not have the time or the employees to keep Texarkana, Arkansas cleaned up.

Property owners could be held accountable, but most of the trash appears to have been dumped on edge, or it has merely blown there with the wind.  Even if property owners went out daily and cleaned up the trash, there would be new trash there the next morning.  I know, I have that problem in my neighborhood as well.

The City Beautiful and other volunteer organizations try to help make a difference.  However, even with their help, the fact is they are all volunteers, and many of them have other full-time jobs and obligations.  They cannot be the city trash collectors.  Church groups and other volunteer organizations have the same issues as the city.  They are often short of volunteers or help, and many times their volunteers cannot get out in the heat to work.  To depend on these organizations to clean up the city is not logical.

So where should we look to clean up the city?  Is there a way to get Texarkana, Arkansas out of the trash dump?   I imagine that we could increase education in schools about littering.  Maybe we could have more “Clean Up the Town” days.  We could publish information about why litter is terrible, and we could even resort to stronger laws and fines regarding litter.  The property owner has no control when someone walks by and throws trash down.  Unless a city officer sees someone throwing trash down, penalties will have little impact.  

A few months ago I saw Barbara Miner, a City Ward Member, walking along the edge of 24th Street and picking up trash.  A few weeks later, I saw her again in another location, picking up trash.  The City Beautiful Commission has held clean up days.  Texas A&M has even held clean up days that have included Texarkana, Arkansas.  The Sandflat Glendale Shannon Neighborhood Center has also hosted clean up days with dumpsters and people out cleaning up the local areas.  There are efforts from individuals to organizations to make a difference in the community, but we must do more. 

Unfortunately, as indicated before, these efforts are often overshadowed by new trash within days of the work.  The bottom line is that the trash problem in Texarkana, Arkansas, is OUR problem.  It is your problem, and it is mine.  We, as the citizens of Texarkana, Arkansas, must collectively decide we can do better.  We must choose this as property owners and business owners, we must decide this as churches and schools, and we must decide this as organizations and groups.  We must collectively come together, promote a cleaned up Texarkana and then we must maintain it.  Until we come together as an entire city and community, we will continue down a path that will lead us to be known as “Trash-Town” instead of “Texarkana Town.”  

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