Don't slight Pinnacle
I enjoyed and appreciated your article on the new trail guide for Petit Jean State Park ("Rediscover Petit Jean," Nov. 20). It was great that you got the chance to meet Dr. Matt Moran and go on such an informative guided hike. His knowledge of the ecological diversity of the trails is fascinating.
I do not know why you felt the need to insult and basically bash Pinnacle Mountain State Park in your seemingly unrelated introduction. It sounds like you have hiked in only one small area of the park (on a busy Saturday, at that), and are unaware that Pinnacle Mountain State Park is much more than solely the mountain that gives it its namesake. Several other trails are spread throughout the park, containing extremely diverse ecosystems. One can find bottomland hardwoods, swamps, mixed hardwood pine forests, upland hardwood forests and glades, all within the park's 2,351 acres. With two rivers running through the park, and several areas left untouched by the public, Pinnacle is home to a thriving, healthy amount of wildlife and plant species. These include wild turkeys, whitetail deer, bald eagles, coyotes, bobcats, several amphibian species, every species of snake in Arkansas and a wide variety of birds. Please note that the list I just gave is in no way exhaustive. I also did not include the park's trees and plant populations. I would be quite thrilled to find any of the aforementioned species in a "grand city park."
I encourage you to explore the rest of the park, besides the mountain itself. Yes, the mountain is packed on the weekends and has probably suffered some ecological damage from all of the foot traffic. Any state park within bike riding distance of Arkansas's largest metropolis would suffer the same consequences. Luckily, the rest of the park seems to be a well-kept secret, and could still be considered, perhaps, a small bit wild. No park in Arkansas can boast being "remotely wild," I'm afraid. Not even the revered Petit Jean. The park's "stubby anthill" is still just as awe-inspiring as other mountains in Arkansas; the fact that it is the most used makes no difference. Perhaps you have become jaded due to the fact that this mountain isn't "just an hour further down the road."
No two areas in Arkansas are the same — that is the beauty of our Natural State. I beg you to do a little bit more research on areas that you decide to publicly dismiss. Thankfully for everyone, no matter how far "West Little Rock's sprawl" increases, Pinnacle Mountain State Park will remain.
Gillian Hannah Rossi
Pinnacle Mountain State Park interpreter
According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 percent of Arkansans live in poverty. 28.6 percent of those impoverished people were Arkansas children. Comparable to the United States, Arkansas ranked No. 48 of the 50 states having citizens living in poverty. Depending on your definition of what it means to be poor, those percentages may be lower or higher. However, the truth of the matter is Arkansas needs to do something to combat this very serious problem.
There are many negative attitudes towards people who need some form of government assistance to help them make ends meet. I'm sure many Arkansans hold these same opinions. Some feel as though people shouldn't receive handouts and need to work like everyone else. Yet what about those who do work but whose job doesn't pay enough to cover food or bills? The public has this perception that the majority of people receiving welfare benefits are deviants that are working the system. If citizens have a problem with how the government manages welfare benefits, why don't those individuals who criticize government solutions lend their own personal helping hand?
Circles USA is a national program with the goal of helping families out of poverty. It does so by bringing low-income people and middle-class community members together. The way the program operates is one Circle leader, a low-income individual, is matched with allies, middle-income members, who meet once a month. During these meetings the leader creates a plan to obtain the economic, professional and social resources to move out of poverty. The allies form a support group to aid the leader to achieve these goals. Some Circles programs offer classes that the leader can take to learn about budgeting, planning and setting goals. Circle programs offer training for communities and encourages them to tailor their programs to the needs of citizens in their specific communities.
There are some criticisms of the Circles program. New sites are cautioned that some participants take four or five years to move out of poverty. There is a maximum of 25 participants at a time, so there aren't a large number of people being helped at once. Circles has a "slow and steady wins the race" mentality. According to a Stanford Social Innovation Review, 64 percent of participants finish the program and their income was increased by an average of 28 percent while participating. This promising data is the reason why Circles advocates say small numbers of participants and adequate time lead to success.
I believe that Circles could be utilized very well in Arkansas. Personal relationships crossing class lines can only help in the fight against poverty. Learning about finances and networking with leaders of communities may be the tools needed for people to move away from being financially underprivileged. We all know the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime."
In last week's Comment, we mistakenly transcribed a letter from Kavion Wang, owner of Fantastic China. Instead of "Everything that comes from our kitchen is French and homemade" the letter should have read, ""Everything that comes from our kitchen is fresh and homemade."