Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
As is customary, we asked staff and readers for other suggestions of Arkansans worthy of mention for being important to life in Arkansas in 2010. Some of those suggested:
The ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT. It threw up a roadblock to an air-poisoning coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County that carried the clout of corporate-influenced inevitability. It ordered equal treatment of gay people under the law. It granted important new hearings to the West Memphis Three murder defendants. Courageous, it was.
BOBBY PETRINO. The Hog football coach, with the help of rifle-armed quarterback Ryan Mallett, built a BCS bowl team and set the hearts of Razorback fans fluttering with dreams of national championships. It earned him a new contract with an $18 million buyout for either side. He better be good. We're stuck with him or a huge bill.
CLIFF LEE. The star baseball picture bought a nice old house for fix-up in an established part of Little Rock, passed up New York (and an additional $30 million) for better quality of family life in Philadelphia and gave $1 million to Arkansas Children's Hospital. Strong arm; strong values.
ANTHONY TURNER. He's not an Arkansas resident now, but the graduate of the Midland School District in rural Independence County blew the whistle to CNN on a violently homophobic Facebook rant by School Board member Clint McCance. It set off a hot national discussion that led to McCance's resignation from the School Board. It was a blow against bullies everywhere.
ALICE WALTON. OK, she's a Texan, but she's using a portion of her inherited billions to build the Crystal Bridges museum of American art in her Bentonville home town. It will open next year. The influence of that investment — and expected Walton donations — also prompted a decision to build a larger facility of the Walton Arts Center in Bentonville, rather than Fayetteville, where it began.
JIM WALTON. The Arkansas banker is using his inherited millions to reshape the public school system to his liking — particularly by encouraging many more charter schools, particularly by destroying the Little Rock School District if he can. He ruffled some legislative feathers in the Republican caucus by not paying them enough for their votes on charter school legislation. It might wash over in opposition to a Walmart desire to see all Internet sales in Arkansas taxed, not just those by companies, like Walmart, with operations here. The Times is behind the Walton interests on that tax idea, by the way.
CHARLES PORTIS. His venerable best-selling novel "True Grit" was a best-seller again thanks to a dandy new screen adaptation by the Coen brothers.
MATTIE ROSS. The fictional heroine of "True Grit" was nominated by one reader for Arkansan of the Year for her cinematic embodiment of a certain Arkansas chauvinism and other virtues the scrappy Yell County teen projects in the hunt for her father's killer.
The TEA PARTY. They tended to vote Republican, but they had their own special brand of mad-on that proved influential at various levels of politics — particularly in turning Garland County into a deep-red redoubt of anti-tax, anti-government sentiment. Oaklawn Park, look out?
MIKE ROSS. We express no pleasure in the tactics he adopted to be the lone Democratic congressional survivor in Arkansas elections this year. But survive he did — by voting time after time against the interests of his mostly poor constituents (health care) and missing not a chance to push hot buttons, such as religion, guns or gay people (he's for, for and against).
BLANCHE LINCOLN. She departed office, though a badly beaten loser in her Senate re-election race, with grace. We don't care what anyone else says. Though her service of corporate interests sometimes disappointed us, she worked hard and she was unfailingly friendly. We KNOW that it won't take a week of her replacement, John Boozman, to miss her deeply. Not even if she goes to work for the K Street gang.
WALTER HUSSMAN. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher clung to his notion of a pay-to-play world of publishing on the Internet and effectively took control of print journalism in Northwest Arkansas. He moved ever closer to making Arkansas a one-newspaper state when it comes to comprehensive print journalism. But on-line competitors — including ever-more-vigorous and FREE TV websites — stand in the way of total information dominion. Thank goodness.
MELANIE FOX. In her turn as Little Rock School Board president, the workaholic methodically led the board to a surprisingly peaceful buyout of the few months remaining on Superintendent Linda Watson's contract and planned an inclusive process to find a new leader who'll begin shaking up a district that needs to put still more focus on the classroom and less on administrative superstructure.
BILL HALTER. The lieutenant governor lost his primary challenge of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, but the state lottery he fathered got underway and provided millions in scholarship help for tens of thousands of grateful students.
DANI JOY. The mayor of Eureka Springs led the city to providing insurance coverage for domestic partners of city employees, adding to the luster of a very welcoming community.
RON MATHIEU. The Little Rock National Airport director's big-spending ways — a $40,000 contribution to his son's private Christian academy and deluxe first-class travel around the world — gave everyone another reason to hate government. And the Little Rock Airport Commission, in kissing off Mathieu's sins, only made matters worse.
CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE. The business community, as embodied by local and state chambers of commerce, are no longer content to use their lobbying muscle to beat up on working people and public schools that don't run the way the Waltons like. Now they demand taxpayer dollars to support their work. And elected officials like Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and the City Board of Directors don't have the gumption to tell the good suits to pay their own way.
GOV. MIKE BEEBE. He enjoyed nearly unprecedented popularity for cautious, informed governance and won re-election in a walk.
CHARLAINE HARRIS. The Magnolia vampire novelist kept churning out hits and material for a hit TV series.
The WORKING CLASS. As a nominator put it, "The Persons of the Year should be all the faceless middle-class and poor Arkansans still alive on January 1, 2011, after 365 days of rich folks pouring hot oil down upon them. To have survived what they have this year (and last) is phenomenal!"
VIC SNYDER. The 14-year congressman left office with dignity and courage intact to spend more time with his four kids, including triplets. Some weren't inclined to praise on account of the Karl Rove acolyte and Republican political hit man, Tim Griffin, elected to replace him.
JODY HARDIN. He opened the Argenta Market, a step in the activist/farmer/businessman's long effort to bring local farmers and food sources closer to consumers. A "heritage" farm and locally farmed tilapia are on his plate for 2011.