Maintaining paths of communal health

Pine Bluff’s lone newcomer to the city council, Alderman Lloyd Holcomb, recently presented a pleasant spark of forward-looking public policy. As reported in the Commercial, Holcomb wants to improve the area surrounding Lake Saracen.

Positioning the downtown lake as “the centerpiece of the city,” Holcomb has crafted a proposal urging citizens who reside near Lake Saracen to better maintain their properties and users of the lake and its facilities to help in keeping the site free of “trash and litter.”

Holcomb is encouraging the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to take active steps in supporting the effort by preventing unlawful dumping.

Holcomb’s measure also would authorize the mayor to “partner” with the state agency in combating littering of the lake and “its environs,” utilizing the services of the city’s police, zoning and inspection and other departments in the process.

We fully support this measure and measures of its kind. The Saracen Landing pavilion is an attractive, accessible and well-used community asset. As reported, Lake Saracen is a popular fishing spot, boasting the 10,080-square-foot Saracen Landing pavilion, a facility with high visibility from the adjacent Martha Mitchell Expressway. The pavilion is available to individuals and groups for meetings, concerts, reunions, weddings and other events. The Saracen Landing area also features picnic shelters with grills and is also home to a farmers market. Unfortunately, if one ventures very far from the Landing’s commodious environment, the specter of litter, poorly maintained landscaping and the Walking Trail itself, lose much of their luster.

Owing to a lack of maintenance and the presence of irresponsible users, litter is a common sight along the trail. Weeds can regularly be seen peeking through the trail’s pavement. “Evidence” of the area’s vibrant goose population often makes the trail nearly impassible.

These are all maintenance issues — issues that detract from one of the unabashedly positive things in our city. To be clear, it’s not as though there’s any confusion as to whose responsibility this maintenance is — it’s the city’s; it’s that the maintenance is just not being done with the celerity and certainty required to support the resource.

Moreover, these are maintenance issues associated with a well-used and popular communal resource. Walkers and runners can be found on the trail throughout the day and early evening. Happy conversations imagining the completion of the entire trail system are commonly heard. It is a facility that the public values and wants to see expanded. The city needs to do its part to ensure that those who are entrusted with these tasks actually do them.

Lastly, Saracen Landing, the Walking Trail and the areas surrounding them are important because they represent equality of access. These facilities are truly open to all — regardless of race or economic status. They hold the same promise for everyone. We should prioritize, support and properly take care of them. Holcomb’s idea of enlisting the AG&FC is a good one, but a better one is for us to tend our own garden. We own it, we are obligated to maintain it. Just like a “walk in the park,” it’s just that simple.