Saturday, May 8, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LIV): Illegal dumps under surveillance

Rural folks are often the butt of jokes about keeping trash in their yards and generally being unconcerned about aesthetics and environmental well-being. A story in the April 22, 1010 issue of the Newton County Times indicates that Newton County is doing something about this problem. The dateline is Western Grove, and the story's lede follows:
Illegal dumping in Newton County has become an increasing problem and many of the unsightly and hazardous trash heaps are now being monitored in an attempt to find the individual responsible.

Efforts "literally" picked up on Saturday, April 17, when a handful of volunteers showed up to help county employees remove a dumping site on County Road 50, just west of Western Grove.
The accompanying front-page photo shows county judge John Griffith throwing "an old tire into a trailer" at the clean-up. Other photos of the clean up efforts show a "before" photograph of the dump, which I found shocking. We're not just talking tires and old TVs, we're talking every day trash, clothing, etc.

Clearly, efforts such as these are more important than ever for Newton County, as tourist season is upon them, and the county increasingly relies upon its reputation as an ecotourist destination to support the economy.

In other headlines, both the April 22 and April 29 issues of the paper report on the death of a 26-year-old Kansas man who fell while hiking a trail leading to Hawksbill Crag in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.

"Waits needs new lawyer" reports on the withdrawal of Mark Mobley as attorney for Tracy Waits, who faces charges in relation to the conspiracy to kidnap the county sheriff's son and to assist her father, David Middleton, to escape from custody. (Read more here). Mobley has withdrawn from representing Waits because he has a conflict of interest; that is, Mobley is also representing David Middleton and his brother, Ricky Middleton. The story goes into enormous detail of the evidence against Waits and the Middleton men, some of it redundant of earlier reports.

Finally, the April 29 edition of the paper gives us Reason No. 44 of the "52 reasons we love Newton County": "Many heck of a days spent at Dogpatch USA." The story gives a great deal of history of the amusement park, which closed in 1993. Al Capp--creator of the Lil Abner comic strip on which the park was based, was a partner in the initial enterprise and spoke at the park's groundbreaking on Oct. 3, 1967. The cost of the park's construction was $1.3 million. In 1968, the first year of operation, the park had 300,000 visitors; the cost of admission--just $1.50 for adults and half that for children. The story notes that "many residents ... who were in high school during the time the park was in operation recall happy summers working at the park." I admit that I am among those with memories of happy summers at Dogpatch USA (even if we teenage workers were paid well below minimum wage).

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