The Highway Department wanted feedback about any concerns people from the community had regarding widening a section of Highway 63 from Highway 9 to Highway 342. The project will include the replacement of three bridges, and the widening of Highway 63 to five lanes in the project area. The project also will address a long-time community need -- the installation of a stoplight at the intersection of Highways 9 and 63 and the Mammoth Spring State Park. The work will also move the entrance to the park's Visitor's Center to connect to Highway 9.
Citizens of the community were encouraged to notify the state if they knew of any historical sites, family cemeteries, archaeological sites, or environmental constraints that might affect the designated widening area. Some community members present for the meeting expressed relief that the new project design addresses a concern raised after viewing an earlier design, by reducing the need to take campground land and private acreage along Highway 63.
"We love the changes. Last time the State Department came in, they were planning on cutting into our campgrounds and now they have changed it," said campground managers, Bill and Patti Traw. There are four cabins and 12 campsites that were possibly going to be affected, but the Highway Department listened to concerns and will expand out another way. Patti said, "We had a lot of campers write in, so we are hoping that helped."
According to Arkansas State Highway representative Steven Means, the Department plans to seek bids on the project in 2013. After the bid process, there is a 30 day waiting period, so the Department is hoping to get the project under way within a year from now or, at the latest, by 2014. The project will take approximately two years, beginning with the clearing of the right of ways.
Assistant State Park Superintendent Glenda Pryor said the improvements will benefit the park, once it gets done. "Moving our entrance over where it is straight with Highway 9 will be wonderful. Much easier for entering and exiting and, most importantly, safer," said Pryor.
Mammoth Spring Mayor Jean Pace, was also present for the hearing. Mayor Pace stated, "It's great that they are coming and letting the citizens have some input and answer their questions. It is going to be a great improvement for our town. It will be a long project but will be worth it in the end."
Also present for the event were State Representatives Lori Benedict and Linda Collins-Smith. "I'm looking forward to the changes; hopefully we can come through with the funding pretty soon. It is a good project that I think is worth funding. At first I was afraid it was going to take up too much of the campground or land in certain areas but it's not doing that and I'm pleased with that. I support this project and will support it with funding also," said Benedict.