Blooming the town red

By Wayne Bryan Published April 12, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.
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— It is not exactly a red carpet, but members of the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce think they can have a red-lined gateway into their city that will attract visitors and might even bring in business.

“We want to plant red crape myrtles from [Interstate 30] along U.S. 270 through Rockport to Arkansas Highway 9 through downtown Malvern,” said Nikki Launius, executive director of the chamber. “We will also encourage people to plant them all over the city to give the town a special look and identity.”

Tony Warner of Malvern National Bank, who is also a former president of the chamber, said the crape myrtles could also have an economic benefit.

“The color of the trees would make the business district look more lively,” he said. “What it will help is to beautify the city and make it more inviting for people to come into the city and shop, and it might help attract someone looking to open a new business or industry.”

Warner said a town full of the bright red blooms would show that residents take pride in their city.

The idea to plant the trees came from Juanita Efird, a longtime resident and community activist who has championed several efforts to make Malvern more attractive.

“I have a daughter in Norfolk, Va. There, the city plants crape myrtles all over the place,” Efird said.

“Maybe planting the trees will help people have more pride in the city.”

In Norfolk, it is against a cityordinance to cut the trees, she said.

The type of crape myrtle the chamber wants to plant throughout Malvern is the Red Dynamite, which was developed in 1997 for its true red color, Launius said.

“It is pest- and disease-resistant and drought-tolerant and makes these spectacular blooms that last 120 days, almost a third of the year, from spring until fall,” she said. “When they are in bloom, they fill the sky with color, and they don’t take up a lot of room.”

Launius also said the type of plant the chamber selected does not require any serious pruning. She called extreme pruning of the trees “crape murder.”

Once the trees are in the ground, their care and maintenance will be provided by work crews from the Ouachita River Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction in Malvern.

“Prison officials have agreed to maintain the area around the trees if we provide the gasoline and line for the weed trimmers,” Launius said.

Efird has suggested that a festival be held when it is time to plant the crape myrtles, then another festival in June or July, when the trees are in full bloom.

To help pay for the crape myrtles, the chamber has dedicated a portion of the funds raised from the organization’s second annual Bingo Bonanza, to be held Friday at the Malvern Community Center. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m .,and games will begin at 6:30.

“A portion of the proceeds will go to the crape-myrtle beautification project - Make Malvern Bloom - that will begin in November, the best time to plant the trees,” Launius said. “Anotherportion of the proceeds will help the Malvern Senior Center to buy food for its daily members and for their Meals on Wheels program.”

Last year, the bingo event brought in $18,000 for scholarships for students at College of the Ouachitas and for refurbishing the chamber’s community room and offices, she said.

The chamber is offering 20 bingo prizes for the night’s big winners and 20 door prizes for those who attend. Some of the prizes include a five-burner gas grill, a $200 cash prize, gas cards, gift cards, a microwave, overnight stays and restaurant certificates.

A raffle for a 42-inch television, donated by Walmart, will be given away at the event. Tickets are available at the chamber or the Farmers Bank & Trust on East Page Street. Tickets are $2 each or 6 for $10.

Tickets for the Bingo Bonanza are $20 in advance or $25 at the door for 16 games. Four extra games at the end of the evening offer big-ticket prizes and are $1 each. Tickets are available at the chamber office at 213 W. Third St. For more information, call (501) 332-2721.

Staf f writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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