Last Sunday, we ran the 10 top local stories of 2016.
This is a tradition that predates my association with this newspaper and goes back more than 35 years.
Historians one day will be able to search the Jan. 1 editions of the Gazette to get a sense of the important issues and developments of the time for Texarkana and the surrounding area. It won't be definitive, of course. What we think is important at the moment often has little relevance years later.
On the other hand, buried in the millions of words we publish are events that will prove significant in the long term, but at the time, their relevance was lost on us.
This column has nothing to do with either of these positions.
As a complement to last year's top 10 list, I put together a list of what I called "lower lights," things that happened that weren't significant in any large sense, but that in some way added to the community or entertained us.
I want to continue that tradition.
As I said last year, this lower lights list is done in honor of the Philip Bliss hymn "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning."
While this application isn't strictly on point—we're not trying to save seamen from a deadly shore—it is done to show some appreciation to smaller accomplishments that have improved our community or have made our days more interesting.
Here is the list for 2016 in no particular order:
Welcome Sign. In 2015, we noted the new welcome sign on the east edge of Texarkana. For 2016, we note that it now has lights on it. This entry point is now visible 24/7, which, in a sense, doubles its value. Nice touch.
Skateboard Park. Texarkana, Texas, built and opened this new, specific-use cement park late last year. It sits south of Texarkana Public Library and adjacent to the community-built playground downtown. Boarders couldn't even wait for it to officially open before they started using it. As weather allows—and sometimes even when it doesn't—it has a growing base of users. Seems like a real winner.
The Roundabout. The Texas-side built a traffic circle in a developing area north of Interstate 30 that initially seemed to throw everybody for a loop. While roundabouts have long existed elsewhere—there has been one in Wake Village forever—this one seemed particularly unnerving for some drivers, especially at night, where the signage would reflect back from all directions.
The roundabout replaced a three-way stop northwest of Bed, Bath and Beyond. The commotion seems to have died down as new driving habits developed. Currently, the landscaping seems underwhelming—maybe a garden club will step in at some time and beautify the layout—and some have even wondered why this traffic contrivance is needed.
Good question. The suspicion here is that its most useful days are ahead of it as that part of the city develops and the sector north of it opens up.
ATMs. In last year's list, the war on automatic teller machines was mentioned. Bandits kept trying to load these rascals up and haul them away. Most of the time, the efforts failed, although at least one is still at large. After a spell of inactivity, another one was uprooted north of Gander Mountain late last year, using stolen hydraulic equipment.
While it did happen in the dead of night, it is still somewhat amazing that a piece of banking equipment this big, sitting out in the open, in a town this size, can be ripped from its foundation and hauled off without somebody noticing.
Perot Museum. Last February, Texarkana College opened a permanent wing honoring native H. Ross Perot, his life and deeds. Texarkana has a long and storied history, though we sometimes fail to acknowledge it. Efforts to preserve it are to be commended.
Grim News. Efforts to restore the Hotel Grim in downtown Texarkana were moving full speed ahead toward the end of 2016. While financing is lining up, several questions remain. Among them: What to do with the hordes of feral cats that live there.
Tuneful Tradition. The Regional Music Heritage Center opened up in downtown Texarkana last fall. Its founder hopes to preserve and celebrate the rich musical legacy of the region. It's a two-step in the right direction.
Alcohol In. More towns and counties in the regions went from dry to wet, particularly as it relates to beer and wine sales. Go back 10 years, and the region was almost completely dry. Now, there are only a few dominoes left standing.
Dillard's Expansion. This was announced in the fall. While this is hardly surprising in the sense that this national brand has deep roots in Southwest Arkansas—and Texarkana in particular—it does buck the current trend of established retailers' directing most of their expansion efforts to the Internet and not brick-and-mortar operations.
Gazette Goes. Goes where? We moved our business and news-gathering operations a couple of blocks south to the corner of North State Line Avenue and East Broad Street after about 80 years at the same Pine Street location. And we did it without missing a beat—or edition—which isn't as easy as you might assume. We've settled in for a new year and bright future.
Hope you have, too.