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Officials: Spring River no 'danger zone'

Thursday, August 29, 2002

The August edition of Cosmopolitan magazine identified the Spring River as one of the top six "Danger Zones," a list of party spots described as "hunting grounds for reality porn."

Reality porn is when girls get caught baring themselves on camera, later to find themselves on videos with names such as Wild Party Girls and Girls Gone Wild. It is big business, but embarrassing to girls who don't realize they are being filmed for commercial purposes.

Hardy Mayor Louie Seibert said the designation of danger zone is unfair. He said there have been problems on the river in the past but since authorities addressed the issue there have been very few incidents this year.

The article was based on situations in the past, he said. "Mind you, there are still problems," he added, citing reports of those consuming alcoholic beverages and creating disturbances on the river. He said fights break out when people are drinking, and violence occurs when parties get out of control.

Seibert said complaints were filed the previous year because of disturbances at camps and resorts, but once he complained to the Arkansas State Police commander in Harrison special patrols were added during holiday weekends. He said the problem was addressed immediately. "We are pleased to have seen quite a lessening of these events compared to last year," he said.

The mayor explained that wherever youths convene there will always be problems. He said there are large numbers of people on the river during the weekends but added there are "lots of places in America much worse."

He said, "What we have had here is very mild compared to violent incidents across the nation. He said, "People feel as free as a bird when they come here."

The Spring River is the primary source of the local economy, he explained. He said Hardy has crafts and antiques but the reason those businesses are successful is due to people visiting the river.

The mayor recalled incidents over a year ago at wild parties -- stabbings and shootings but no deaths. He said authorities realized it was essential to correct the problem; everyone cooperated and currently the matter is under control. The mayor said he cannot recall any situation where reality porn filming has been reported on the river.

"All my feelings about the river are positive. The Spring River is unsurpassed," he said.

Local outfitter and city alderman Jeff Klein said he would hate for people to get the idea this is a bad area. He said he has been on the river for years and witnessed only a couple of disturbances where fighting occurred. He said those incidents are isolated.

Fulton County Sheriff Lloyd Martz agreed the problems have lessened this year. "As far as trouble on the river this year, we have been fortunate," he said.

Martz said in the year 2001 there were some problems because authorities were mainly working the highways. Since extra security was added during the holidays the situation is under control, he said.

Sgt. Scott Watkins of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said he was surprised the area was rated alongside spring break locations. He said a lot of young people, ages 18-22, are on the river in bathing suits, drinking and acting foolishly but doing nothing to warrant the designation given in the magazine.

He said problems on the river toned down considerably this year when security and patrols were stepped up. He said he has heard of reports where occasionally a female has lifted her top when others around her encouraged her to bare herself. He said there is a large influx of teen-agers from Memphis and Mississippi. He said it is typical for youngsters to "kick up their heels and hoop and holler" but he has never heard of a specific incident of reality porn filming on the river.

Watkins said security is beefed up on the river with extra officers added during the holiday weekends. He said some officers are highly visible in uniform as a deterrent. Others are plain clothed officers placed on the river to detect violations. He added, "I have been here 11 years and I haven't seen anything like they discussed in Cosmopolitan."

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