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Brief background on Eggstain

The City of Eggstain (est. 1921) is nestled in a basin in the Ozark Mountains in the southeast corner of the "Lakes Region," as the surroundings are known locally. It is the seat of Flabeetz County, Arkansas, and with a population of 12,000 it is the largest city in the county. It is also the highest, with most of the city between 500 and 650 feet above sea level. Only two other towns in the county are incorporated, while the rest of the county is sparsely populated. Despite the rural character of the region, Eggstain itself is densely populated. There has been no new construction since the 1950s and approximately half of the houses are over eighty years old. There is no central wastewater treatment plant, however the community is served by a central water supply.

The primary employer in the area has been Consolidated Fisheries of Flabeetz County, Arkansas (CFFCA) which operates several processing/packing plants and a large number of catfish farms in the county. Some Eggstain residents work for CFFCA and some also work the farms and feedlots in adjacent Bennett County, which mark the eastern edge of the Lakes Region. A cluster of feedlots can be seen in the southeast corner of the satellite image (below). Of the remaining working population, most are shop owners or shop employees, or provide essential services. With relatively few job opportunities and a popuation that has been reluctant to relocate, unemployment in the area is quite high, estimated at20 to 25% of working age adults. Historically, the average educational level of long time residents has remained at three years of high school. Consistent with the unemployment rate, property values and average personal income have historically been well below the national average.

Past tax revenues have been sufficient to support only minimal county and city services. Public safety departments include a volunteer fire department and a sheriff's office. Waste collection services are contracted by individual businesses and homeowners. A combined water quality and public health department operating within Eggstain city limits operates the water treatment plant to provide potable water to the community. The department conducts restaurant inspections, annual inspections of local wells, natural waterways, and the pond systems. The department is understaffed and relies on a student internship program for the manpower to meet state and EPA inspection requirements. Some new developments are certain to increase the workload on the department.

Recent population shifts and a new tourism industry may brighten the prospects for the local population. Eggstain is regarded as "quaint" by many outsiders. This fact and the rural character of the surroundings have drawn a number of well-heeled retirees to the are, giving rise to a new service industry. A growing "artists' colony" has converted a somewhat blighted part of the town to a shopping area with galleries and gift shops that attract a modest but increasing number of tourists. At the present time Eggstain is home to a number of construction workers, supervisors, and government representatives working on projects related to a major regional redevelopment project (see below), temporarily helping the local economy.

Surrounding areas

The more mountainous northern and northwestern parts of the county are popular destinations for camping, hunting, fishing, and for water activities such as swimming and canoeing. To the west of Eggstain (not shown in the satellite image) is the bulk of the fisheries network, including all of the packing plants and the distribution center. In neighboring Bennett County the terrain levels out, with feedlots, grain farms and cattle ranches farther to the east. The southern part of Flabeetz County is primarily undeveloped marshland, unsuitable for farming or ranching. It is compromised habitat due to pesticide contamination and saline buildup related to intensive farming activities. The area is badly in need of rehabilitation.

Proposed recreational area and wildlife refuge

CFFCA recently settled a lawsuit by the EPA over its environmental policies, including an expansion of its fisheries without filing environmental impact statements and obtaining proper permits. As part of the settlement, CFFCA has ceded some of its properties to the public domain, for development as a regional recreational center and wildlife refuge. Properties to be developed include lakes in the Central, East Central, South Central, and Southwest areas (see map). The company obtained its last harvest from the lakes in these areas six months prior to the start of this project.

Development plans include a limited number of cabins to be rented to tourists using the area for fishing, boating, and swimming. Two small warehouses near the artists' colony are presently undergoing extensive renovation as "boutique hotels" for tourists wishing to stay in town. Capacity of the City of Eggstain water system will be increased and extended east to provide water service to the area.

A grant from the state will provide funds for water system improvements. A federal grant-in-aid covers expenses related to development of the recreational area that are not covered by CFFCA. Private developers have purchased land and buildings in town for redevelopment, and bidders are currently sought for the franchise to build and run the cabins, along with a cafeteria, general store, and other support facilities.

A wildlife refuge, proposed as part of the settlement with CFFCA, will include lakes in the Southwest and South Central areas. Discussions are under way to begin rehabilitation of the southern marshlands, making way for southern expansion of the refuge over a twenty year timetable. Government support of the project hinges upon the chances of success in restoring native habitat and wildlife to the area. The evaluation will include a thorough census of biota in the region.

Satellite image – Eggstain and surroundings

NOTE: Bodies of water have been color enhanced.

Labeled map of Eggstain and surroundings

Created by David R. Caprette (caprette@rice.edu), Rice University 20 Jul 07
Updated 23 Feb 20163
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