"This is my ninth year on Quorum Court," said Ken Ballman, who represents the Horseshoe Bend area. "I suggested upgrading that road when I joined the court."
"That road" is Pine Ridge, which crosses the Diamond Lane dam, and continues on to State Highway 56 near Franklin.
"We're putting down a good layer of chat (gravel) the length of the road, three-point-two miles, and are going to let it set up over the winter," said Izard County Judge David Sherrell. "Then, next summer, we're going to chip and seal it. It will be a big improvement for those who use the road."
The county will pay for its portion of the $162,000 project out of its state aid projects fund, and Horseshoe Bend will pay $25,000 to upgrade the small portion of the road that is within the city limits.
Ballman says some parts of the clay and gravel road turn into a "mud hole" that is difficult to get through most winters and, once the road is improved, Horseshoe Bend residents will have a more convenient way to get to Highway 56, to Ash Flat, Batesville and points south.
There is a potentially more important reason to upgrade the road, however.
"A lot of people don't realize it, but Pine Ridge is an evacuation route," Ballman said. "We have an anhydrous ammonia pipeline running through Horseshoe Bend, and Pine Ridge would be the quickest way for some residents to get out, if there was ever an evacuation because of an ammonia leak."
Judge Sherrell said he remembers the Pine Ridge improvement discussed many times during his years on Quorum Court and, as Judge, he decided to make the project a priority.
"I look at it as a chance to do something for Horseshoe Bend and its residents," said Sherrell. "Horseshoe Bend has a tax structure that allows it to be a self maintained entity, as far as its streets and roads. Making a better connection to Highway 56 is one thing we can do for the city. This should especially help people on the northeast side of town."
"This work will create another main entrance to Horseshoe Bend," said Mayor Bob Barnes, another long-time backer of the project. "It will be a shortcut for many people to get to Crown Lake, as well as Diamond Lake and Horseshoe Bend."
Work to dump and spread the chat began on Nov. 7. Construction crew members say getting the new gravel base in place will help keep the road passable this winter, and letting it sit and settle will lead to a better road base, when chipping and sealing begins next construction season.
"It should take about eight days to get the chat down and spread out and rolled," said Barnes. "That will give us a good base for when the road is asphalted."