LIFT: Pride in Texarkana

by Julie Tidwell
President, Keep Texarkana Beautiful

Hakuna matata – the song from The Lion King that means “no worries.” That was the carefree life Simba had as a lion cub when he left his home, the Pride Land, after things got tough. Slowly, the Pride Land deteriorated, yet Simba ignored the pleas for help, thinking others were better suited to fix the problem. Soon the spirit of Simba’s father helped Simba realize that to save the Pride Land he must come back and fight. Simba came back and with the help of many others, they took back the Pride Land and restored it to its former glory.

Many of us have been Simba in the past – turning our backs on our hometown believing others are better equipped to save it. I have certainly been guilty. But the truth is that if positive change is to come it must come from many. And, the good news is, it’s not too late and you don’t have to be wealthy or trained as an urban planner or a revitalization expert. Whatever your skill set may be, Texarkana needs you.

How many outside experts have we hired to tell us how to make Texarkana’s downtown better? How many studies have we commissioned to tell us this or that? While every study and every expert had grandiose plans, a trip to our downtown brings you face-to-face with reality – nothing they said or did has eliminated a State Line corridor littered with billboards and signs, dilapidated and crumbling buildings and razor wire fences. The alternate route to downtown via Texas Boulevard fares no better. The city of Texarkana, Texas has identified 1,500 substandard properties that need to be condemned. The bottom line is…we have some depressing urban blight manifested in buildings that are not only eyesores but in many cases safety hazards.

I serve on the board of Keep Texarkana Beautiful, and the purpose of our organization is to “empower the community to create a cleaner, more beautiful Texarkana through volunteerism and education.” An affiliate of “Keep Texas Beautiful,” we had an active role in promoting Texarkana’s recycling program and monitoring the landscaping on the I-30 corridor. Our primary objective this year is code enforcement and litter awareness/education. You may say that our work is merely a ripple in the ocean and won’t change the city. And, standing alone you would be correct. But, there are many great organizations with objectives to help revitalize our town. KTB has partnered in activities with City Beautiful, our companion group from the city of Texarkana, Arkansas; Main Street Texarkana; the Housing Authority; Leadership Texarkana and the Chamber of Commerce. We are excited to hear about a new group called “Better Block Texarkana.” All these clusters of people ultimately want the same thing–a prettier and more viable Texarkana. And the cooperation of these groups is exactly what Leadership Texarkana’s “LIFT” effort is about – working together for the common good.

Not long ago, two ladies on the board of KTB volunteered to help Main Street’s project and plant flowers in planters along Broad Street. Both are icons in our community and well into their eighties. They have every reason in the world to let someone younger do the job. Many might think that such a job is below their station in life. Yet, there they were–the first to raise their hands and take on the task.

A recent speaker said the synergies are in place for real change to occur. Below are just a few examples of what is happening:

  • Leadership Texarkana has established LIFT (Leadership Initiative for Texarkana). In part, this group’s goal is to create a culture of community leadership at every level to work together with the common purpose to communicate, coordinate and cooperate for a better Texarkana, USA.
  • The city of Texarkana, Texas has hired an assistant city manager to focus on code enforcement. Perhaps we will now see some of the 1,500 substandard properties begin to get demolished and slumlords served citations for blatant neglect of their properties.
  • There is a real possibility of the redevelopment of the historic Grim Hotel into market range loft apartments.
  • A grant to Main Street Texarkana has provided funds from Benjamin Moore to paint downtown Texarkana, giving a facelift to many long ignored structures.
  • A new organization, Better Block Texarkana, is planning an “Imagine This” event May 10th where they are simulating what a thriving downtown would look like. For more information, check out their awesome video on You Tube or go to
  • The Rose Hill community has been renovated and is certainly an example of returning a neighborhood to its past glory.
  • Educational leaders from all city districts have worked with KTB and City Beautiful to develop community-wide curriculum to foster anti-litter initiatives in our schools
  • We have three burgeoning schools of higher education in our community: Texas A&M Texarkana, Texarkana College, and UACCH that are redefining themselves and growing.
  • A downtown community garden has been created and is being maintained by church groups/ volunteers. The garden is providing food for those in need.

And let’s not forget the gems of our community. There is not a more stunning theatre in the United States than our own Perot Theatre! What about our most prominent structure that straddles two states – the Federal Courthouse? Has anyone ever seen a more unique home than the Texarkana Museums System’s Ace of Clubs House? We have excellent parks and bike paths and are getting two new dog parks! Our churches are plentiful and thriving, and we have excellent school systems both public and private. The list could go on and certainly doesn’t encompass all the exciting things going on in our twin cities (but I only have a few words left).

There is much we can all do. If you have a vacant lot overgrown with grass and weeds in your neighborhood, why not get together a group of volunteers and mow it? If you see trash on your street, pick it up. If you see junk cars illegally parked on lawns, call the city’s code enforcement office. If you want to see the Grim Hotel restored, go to “Save the Grim” Facebook page and see how you can get involved.

Whatever you and I do, it is critical that we, like Simba, realize we can no longer simply say there are better people for the job. The job is for all of us. So let’s create ripples. Let’s clean up the city and put pride back in Texarkana.

Share this post:

Comments on "LIFT: Pride in Texarkana"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment