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are giving people fewer reasons to come here,” Black said. Te campsites have been closed since June 2010, when heavy rains swelled the Little Missouri and Caddo rivers. Campsites in the Albert Pike Recreational Area in the Ouachita National Forest were flooded. Afterward, federal agencies re-evaluated the placement of their campgrounds and discovered that almost all of them were lo- cated in a flood plain. “I understand the reasoning for not wanting to locate them there because of the danger issue, but on the other hand, that’s where people want to camp is next to a stream,” Black said. “What I tried to get across to them, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears, is if you’re going to close these areas to recreation or to overnight camp- ing, build us another one somewhere. But they’re having financial problems just like the counties are.” Black said that from a financial standpoint 2014 has been the

“toughest” year for Montgomery County. “We’re kind of just a little on edge. Financially speaking, we’re

Judge Alvin Black points out his mother, Essie Black, in a photo- graph of Montgomery County county/circuit clerks that hangs on the wall in the courthouse hallway. His father, Bill Black, also served as county/circuit clerk and is featured in the photo collage.

“So it becomes a very erratic payment,” Black said. “It could vary

hundreds of thousands of dollars from one year to the next, so it makes it almost impossible to budget because you don’t know how much you are getting.” Te more immediate problem, though, is that Montgomery County has not yet received all of its 2013 allocation. “Tere’s some set-aside money — money that is set aside for spe-

cial projects — that we haven’t gotten yet,” Black said. Tese special projects must be approved by a Resource Advisory Committee. “Until they . . . go over these projects, then even though we’ve been allocated the money, we can’t have it,” Black said. “It’s frustrat- ing because I had three people employed with this money, and I had to lay them off back in February.” After several delays, the committee finally met July 15 and ap-

proved two special projects Black had requested: funding the coun- ty’s Recreation Area Maintenance Program through 2015 — thereby putting the three laid-off employees back to work — and extending for another two miles the chip and seal surface on Logan Gap Road. Te three recreation employees are charged with maintaining the campsites and recreation sites throughout the county, but the Na- tional Forest Service has closed virtually all of its recreation areas to overnight camping due to a flash flood that killed 20 people — many of them children — four years ago.

nue generated when visitors buy groceries, gasoline and other items. “We were taking care of probably a dozen recreation sites around the county, and with them closing them to overnight camping, they

R 36

ecreation is Montgomery County’s largest industry, but campground closures have begun putting a dent in the reve-

better off than a lot of counties our size, and I think that’s largely due to our being very conservative with our revenue projections,” he said. “We haven’t had a reduction in revenue projections since 2004, but we’re getting pretty close to having another one.” A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to designate a 13.6-mile section of the Ouachita River from the bridge at Sims to the bridge at Oden as a critical habitat for the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot Mussel compounds the financial challenges facing Montgomery County. “It’s not a large section, but one of the few big businesses we have left in the county is Camp Ozark, and they are on that section of the river,” Black said. “I want to keep the little bit of economic base left in our county. We lost a shoe factory last year, and that was about 80 jobs that we lost.” Camp Ozark is a Christian summer camp that Black says brings

“several million dollars a year to Montgomery County.” A critical habitat designation along the portion of the river where Camp Ozark operates might force the camp to consider doing business elsewhere, “and we don’t want them to do business” elsewhere, Black said. But under new rules proposed by FWS last year — and opposed

by Arkansas legislators in Washington, D.C. — FWS would not have to consider the economic impact such designations would have on local communities. It would only have to consider the cost to the federal government. “In fact, they say there is no local impact, but we know that just isn’t true,” Black said.

en houses. He remembers feeding and watering the chickens after school and on weekends when he was young. His mother, Essie Black, died in 1986, and his father, Bill Black, is


96 years old now. Te cattle and chickens have long since been sold. Most of the brothers have moved back home, with the exception of one who is a missionary in Turkey. Black graduated from Mount Ida High School in 1975, and then earned a degree in forestry from the University of Arkansas


lack and his five brothers grew up on a 400-acre farm in Mount Ida, where his parents raised cattle and had chick-

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