Along the Spring River near Hardy, is Bigger's Bluff. It has long been a scenic attraction because of its beautiful view of Spring River. It also overlooks the Arkansas Sheriffs Youth Ranches.
"It is appropriate that the Youth Ranch sets on the most beautiful spot on the river," says Paul Swymn, house parent at the campus, "after all, we want the ranch to be a place where children will experience some of their fondest memories."
The Youth Ranches' mission is to provide a safe, healthy and permanent home for children who have been neglected and abused. "We're home, and we are family for our children. A major part of our parenting teaches our children the individuals' responsibility to community and to the environment," said Swymn.
In recent years, the Youth Ranch property has lost some of its beauty because flooding has taken trees, leaving the riverbank bare and unprotected. With grants from the Sharp County Community Foundation, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) the natural habitat will be restored along the entire riverbank, this is called a riparian area. Also rock veins are to be built at the erosion areas that will encourage soil to collect rather than wash away.
Stephen O'Neal, stream team coordinator with AGFC, envisioned a cooperative effort between the Youth Ranch and government agencies that would benefit everyone. He came to the Youth Ranch to do the site survey and working with the boys and another adult, took soundings and measurements of the river so that drawings could be made. He invited the boys to present their project at a program held by the Audubon Society at the Clinton Library. "This is their home and this was an opportunity to challenge the boys to become stewards of their environment," said O'Neal.
With the project nearing completion, the boys at the Ranch have helped clean up flood debris, plant 1,600 trees, plant native grasses, and place fence posts for the riparian area. While restoring beauty and balance to the environment, the personal development of the young men involved in this project is a matter of pride for them. "This was a cool experience. We were participants in a real life project that will make a difference for years to come," said Tyrone, a resident at the Youth Ranch. It is also an example of the principles of the Ranch in action: the children are encouraged to become successful in life and to give back as much as they can because all benefit from that which has been given.