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Eureka's 'green' outlook earns it a City of Distinction Award for conservation initiatives

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eureka Springs is all about being green.

From its parks to recycling efforts, the city of about 2,200 prides itself on its green and conservation initiatives. Its efforts have earned Eureka Springs a 2012 Arkansas Business City of Distinction Award for Green/Conservation Initiatives.

"Eureka Springs is a community dedicated to preserving the built and natural features which make it such a special place," said Glenna Booth, the city's economic development coordinator and preservation officer.

The Eureka Springs Parks & Recreation Commission oversees about 1,800 acres of parks, "making Eureka Springs' park system one of the largest in the U.S.," Booth said.

Trees are also a treasured asset for the city. Since 1997, individuals have to obtain a city permit before removing a tree more than 4 inches in diameter.

But the city has been protecting trees for decades. It is the oldest continuous city in Arkansas that has participated in the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program, which assists cities with their tree programs.

Eureka Springs touts walking as the best way to see the sights of the city. Construction of sidewalks along U.S. Highway 62 is underway. If residents and visitors aren't walking, the city promotes public transportation.

"Motorized trolleys and trams transport visitors and residents throughout the entire city limits year-round," Booth said.

The Eureka Springs Farmers Market's green efforts are successful on several levels. The food sold is locally produced, Booth said.

The market also has a solar powered generator that supplies electricity to the market. The generator makes it a perfect tool for teaching people about solar energy.

Recycling efforts are supported as well. Around the downtown area, recycling containers for cans and bottles are available.

"Eureka Springs was the first town in Arkansas to have curbside recycling," Booth said.

Since 2010, Eureka Springs has received nearly $260,000 from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, which was part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, to pay for several projects.

Those projects include the construction of a solar hot water system at the city's Trolley Barn. Eight solar panels were installed to heat the water used in the steam washer for the trolleys, Booth said.

"This was the first solar panel installation within the Eureka Springs Historic District," she said.

The city also installed 58 custom-made interior storm windows in The Auditorium, an approximately 1,000 seat-theater built in 1929, which is used for musical performances, plays and events.

Also, LED street lights were placed in Basin Park and in the city's downtown.

"Both traditional park street lights and mercury vapor pole lights were replaced with LED lighting fixtures," Booth said.

The city commissioned a greenhouse gas emissions inventory report by the Climate Energy Environment Group LLC of Tempe, Ariz.

"Eureka Springs is the first city in the state to have completed a community greenhouse gas emissions inventory," said Nick Brown, president of Climate Energy. "It's always been a forward thinking town, and the greenhouse gas inventory is just one more example of that."

The greenhouse gas inventory will come in handy because Eureka Springs was one of a handful of cities in Arkansas that committed to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Under the agreement, cities agree to lower greenhouse gas emissions to a level 7 percent below 1990 emissions, to encourage other cities to do the same, and to lobby Congress to adopt comprehensive climate legislation.

"Having a clear understanding of our impact on climate change is the first step to meeting our responsibilities under the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement," Booth said.

A citizens group called the Climate Action Progress Committees has been meeting to implement the city's plan to reduce carbon emission by 2020.

"Eureka Springs has always had environment as a core community value and always relied on public and private partnership to uphold this value," Booth said.



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