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Reader Nancy Baxter was among those expressing disdain for GOP state Sen. Gary Stubblefield's Senate Bill 550 that Gov. Asa Hutchinson rightly sidetracked late last month.

That's the Farm Bureau-embraced bill I'm sure many readers recall that would have transferred authority for issuing permits and oversight of hog factories from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (cough) to the ill-equipped Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. It was such a terrible bill I affectionately named it the "Superfluous Stubblefield Stinker."

While I appreciate all readers who make the effort to express their views to our elected officials, I was especially interested in the revealing response Baxter received from members of the governor's "Constituent Staff." Although stopping short of flat-out saying the senator's stinker was going nowhere, even after passing the Senate (those folks clearly enjoy pleasing the appreciative Farm Bureau), it nonetheless spelled out Hutchinson's feelings about the matter. Here's what it said:

"Thank you for reaching out to Governor Hutchinson's office on this critical issue. It is important that adequate protections remain in place so that we can continue our diligent work to protect the Buffalo National River. Historically, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has been the agency of record for this type of permitting, and they already have the necessary expertise in place to make a determination on a Regulation 5 application.

"Governor Hutchinson is confident in the current process at ADEQ, and will continue to have reservations with regard to SB550 and the transfer of Regulation 5 permitting authority from the ADEQ to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC). The Governor will continue to monitor this legislation closely."

That's encouraging, since I feel certain thousands of others across our state who care deeply for protecting the welfare of our country's first national river are closely monitoring right alongside the governor.

An ideal visit

I've discovered an ideal plan for spending a weekend in a peaceful setting near Silver Dollar City just 40 minutes up U.S. 65 from my driveway.

Those of us who fancy the magic of an escape into this idyllic 1880s theme park (and the scores of rides, restaurants, craftsmen and shows this internationally acclaimed getaway provides) also realize just how difficult it can be to find a parking space during the busy season. Thousands are directed into a distant parking lot and a shuttle bus ride to the entrance and back.

Think I'm kidding? On the park's busiest Friday after Thanksgiving last year, every parking lot was already full and hundreds had to be turned away by noon. We manufactured just enough room in a dirt pullout along the highway, hopped a roadside ditch and caught a tram at one of the tram stops. It was still worth the effort because, thunderation, what can I say? I'll always be a kid at heart.

As with every top-rated theme park, crowds are to be expected. Silver Dollar City had 2.2 million visitors in 2018, from every state, many of them from across Arkansas. Now that we're steaming full speed ahead into pleasant weather, I'm hereby forecasting new attendance records in 2019. That amounts to lots of Arkansans in search of a getaway escape (he grossly understated).

My secret (no longer) plan meant spending an evening either by camping or staying in one of the well-equipped rustic cabins at the Silver Dollar City Campground two miles from the park. From there, we also could catch one of three daily shuttles to the park entrance, and have three return choices.

I don't know about you, friends, but walking several yards to the campground office, plopping down in an air-conditioned shuttle and being delivered to the front gate is a convenient way to visit, certainly for a man with a replaced right hip.

I feel certain this campground along Missouri Highway 265 gets filled in advance. Of course, we always still experience the 61-acre park the old-fashioned way if need be. (I remember where that pullout is located.)

Still pondering

I'm still pondering reporter Ron Wood's story the other day. It concerned the state Appeals Court overturning circuit Judge Cristi Beaumont, who ruled in 2017 that a Fayetteville mother with primary custody of two children (then ages 11 and 3) could not move them to Canada and thereby revise her ex's visitation schedule from every other weekend and Tuesday evenings to longer summer and holiday vacations.

The mother argued that the move would provide better financial, educational and employment opportunities, while her ex countered that the move would have an overall detrimental effect on the relationship between him and his children. The judge basically agreed with him, saying it was speculative at best that such a long-distance relocation would benefit the kids.

The Appeals Court, with exception of dissenting Judge Robert Gladwin, ruled that the mother had no obligation to prove this move would be beneficial or that there were no better options than the one she'd chosen. Neither, they determined, did she have the burden of showing that Canadian schools are better than Fayetteville's, or that she'd earn more money by moving to Canada.

In short, it appears a custodial parent with primary custody in most states need not have concrete plans or proof of benefit to the children when contemplating relocation. Zip, nada, none.

Wow! Call me naïve. I'd never realized the custodial parent in a divorce could just pack up and depart for another country without having definite plans and reasons for such a major relocation away from the other parent.

Gladwin's dissent made perfect sense to me: "The polestar in making a relocation determination is the best interest of the child. The circuit court looked at the evidence and determined that the move was not in the children's best interest. I cannot say the court erred."

Like Gladwin, I also can't say Judge Beaumont erred in putting the children's best interests first. Seems like common sense, in fact. It's equally apparent that I'm obviously no judge.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at

Web only on 04/13/2019

Print Headline: MASTERSON ONLINE: Protecting the river


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  • Jfish
    April 13, 2019 at 7:19 a.m.

    Mike, I received the same response from the Governor Hutchison's office and I do appreciate his rational thinking on this issue. I do wish that our politicians, local, state and national, would wake up and recognize efforts by the Trump administration, Farm Bureau, etc., to roll back the Clean Water Act regulations which were established in the 1970's as a result of the absurd amounts of pollution going into our rivers and streams.