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Fort Smith: Recreation

Fort Smith: Recreation

Sightseeing

The best way to get to know the city is to begin at the Fort Smith National Historical Site on the grounds of the old military installation. Here visitors can trace the history of the area from Wild West fort to "Trail of Tears" waystation, to frontier justice courtroom. Fort Smith then continues its transformation, becoming a World War II relocation facility and then a refugee camp, to its preservation in 1961 as a National Historical Site and its current status as modern city. Located at 4th Street and Garrison Avenue, the urban park consists of maintained trails that lead guests past and through the remains of the two forts, a reconstruction of Judge Parker's infamous gallows and a portion of the "Trail of Tears" along the Arkansas River. The Visitor Center at the Historical Site features displays that reflect on the fort's history from 1817 to 1871. The "Living the Legacy" educational program is a curriculum designed for grades two through five that makes history come alive. The nearby Fort Smith Museum of History makes a convenient and logical follow-up stop.

The history tour of Fort Smith continues in the downtown area with the Belle Grove Historic District, a 22-square-block area that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1970s. Within the vicinity of 5th, H, 8th, and C Streets are 22 houses, some up to 150 years old, that have been restored along with the brick-paved streets. The area contains a number of notable residences such as the Darby House, the Vaughn-Schaap House and the Clayton House. No visit to downtown Fort Smith would be complete without a stop at Miss Laura's Visitor Center, allegedly the only former house of prostitution on the National Register of Historic Places. From there it's a short distance to The Hangman's House, the former residence of George Maledon, who carried out executions for Judge Isaac Parker for a number of years.

Tourists interested in transportation will enjoy both the Fort Smith Air Museum and the Fort Smith Trolley Museum. The Fort Smith Air Museum is located at the Fort Smith Regional Airport Terminal; visitors can take a self-guided tour at no cost, viewing displays that detail military, agricultural and commercial aviation history. Back in the downtown area, travelers who enjoy a leisurely pace can ride the restored 1926 trolley that makes a circuit from Garrison Street to the Fort Smith National Cemetery. On its route, the trolley will stop at the Trolley Museum, containing transportation-related artifacts.

The U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith, served by the trolley and within walking distance of downtown, provides its own silent commentary on the history of Fort Smith, with 10,000 gravesites dating from the establishment of the original fort. Confederate and Union soldiers both rest at this site, and visitors can view the repositories of men hung at the order of Judge Isaac Parker as well as the grave of the infamous judge himself. Judge Parker's hanging legacy continues at the Oak Cemetery, which is also the final resting place of a number of deputy U.S. Marshalls who worked with the judge.

Arts and Culture

The Fort Smith Art Center, housed in the Vaughn-Schaap House in the Belle Grove Historic District, is an architectural work of art and a rare example of Victorian Second Empire buildings in Fort Smith. Displays inside the Center include a permanent contemporary art show featuring local artists and monthly exhibits in a variety of media featuring local and national artists. Art classes and an art camp are also offered through the Fort Smith Art Center.

The Western Arkansas Ballet Company not only offers lavish productions of well-known ballets but also operates a ballet academy and summer ballet instruction for local children and adults. Productions are often performed in conjunction with performing arts departments of the Fort Smith Public Schools system or the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. In 2005, the Fort Smith Symphony began its 81st season as a professional orchestra performing classical and popular music throughout the region.

Theater fans can take in a performance of "The Medicine Show on Hanging Day" at Miss Laura's Visitor Center, featuring Miss Laura and Hanging Judge Parker as characters. A more mainstream option might be provided by the all-volunteer Fort Smith Little Theater, which debuted in 1948. The players produce and perform an eclectic assortment of comedies, dramas and musicals year-round.

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including performances of vocal and instrumental music, operas, and plays throughout the year.

Arts and Culture Information: Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2 North B, Fort Smith, AR 72901; telephone (800)637-1477 or (479)783-8888

Festivals and Holidays

Each May, Memorial Day weekend is kicked off in Fort Smith with a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Rodeo parade that leads up to the Old Fort Days Rodeo and Barrel-Racing Futurity. Rated as one of the best rodeo events in the country, the event runs for ten days and provides a large pay-off for entrants in the Wild West contests. A natural follow-up is the Old Fort Riverfest in June, a three-day festival of music, food, and art for the entire family. The Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair in late September offers a similar flavor of down-home fun seasoned with history.

Celebrating the Scottish heritage of western Arkansas is the focus of the Scottish Border Games and Gathering held each fall; authentic Scottish foods, music and competitions are offered during the three-day fair. Another eclectic offering is the Riverfront Blues Festival, where for two days soulful music can be heard wafting over the Arkansas River.

The calendar year winds up with Frontier Fest, held in late October and celebrating the long and varied history of Fort Smith, and the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights displayed in December.

Sports for the Spectator

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith athletic department houses a baseball team, women's and men's basketball programs and a women's volleyball squad, all of which play at the top of Division I in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Sports for the Participant

The Arkansas River is fed by smaller tributaries that are ideal for canoeing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Enthusiasts recommend the Mulberry River, the White River, Lee Creek, the Fourche River, and the slightly more distant Buffalo River. Abundant water in rivers and lakes makes the Fort Smith area an angler's paradise; top spots for fishing include the rivers, Lake Fort Smith, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake Shepherd Springs and a wealth of small bayous known only to the locals.

Fort Smith is close enough for a day-trip to a variety of state parks with extensive trail systems. After a scenic drive south from Fort Smith, Queen Wilhelmina State Park offers a selection of trails with a variety of difficulty ratings. Nearby Blue Lake Mountain Trail is a beautiful and easy hike for trekkers of any ability. On Highway 10 to the east of Fort Smith, the Mount Magazine Trail is a bit more challenging with a pay-off of breathtaking views. Mount Magazine State Park also offers more than 100 rock climbing routes that range from easy to a 5.10 difficulty rating. The state parks include camping accommodations, as do the national forests in the Arkansas River Valley; the Ozark and Ouachita Mountain ranges are close enough for driving tours, overnight or multi-day camping outings.

With more than 200 days of sunshine and temperate weather throughout much of the year, Fort Smith golf courses are always open for business. The public course at Ben Geren Park has 27 holes, and there is a public 9-hole course at the Fort Smith Country Club. Private 18-hole golf courses include Hardscrabble and Fianna Hills.

Shopping and Dining

The Historic Belle Grove District in downtown Fort Smith is home to specialty and antique stores, and is a central location for souvenir shopping. Central Mall Fort Smith, located at 5111 Rogers Avenue, houses stores selling a wide variety of wares including shoes, jewelry, clothing, books, cards and foods. The Brunwick Place farmers' market is held from spring through fall.

Fort Smith visitors and residents can choose from approximately 300 restaurants featuring a broad selection of ethnicities and tastes. Southern food and barbecue joints hold down a corner of the market, with more global fare represented by a menu of Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Thai eateries. Dining in Fort Smith covers all bases, from drive-through chain restaurants, to eat-with-your-fingers rib shacks, to fine bistro victuals. Lattes, espressos, mochas and the occasional plain black coffee are served at local coffee shops and some restaurants.

Visitor Information: Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2 North B, Fort Smith, AR 72901; telephone (800)637-1477 or (479)783-8888

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Fort Smith: History

Fort Smith: History

The Fort That Wouldn't Die

The groundwork for Fort Smith's role in U.S. and Arkansas history was laid early and deep, as the native tribes that originally peopled the area during the Stone Age established communities in what later became valued and contested lands. Early inhabitants of western Arkansas have been characterized as "bluff dwellers" whose civilization dates back to 10,000 BC. The bluff dweller culture was absorbed into that of invading tribes, and by the time that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto ventured into Arkansas in 1541, the most numerous Arkansas residents were of the Quapaw tribe.

Other explorers followed, claiming the land in the name of their sponsoring country; in 1682, French explorer Robert cavelier de La Salle claimed the area for France as part of the Louisiana Territory. In Arkansas and back east, relocation of native peoples soon began as early European settlers required more land on which to live, hunt, and farm. The later 1700s saw an increasing mix of native tribes west of the Mississippi, not all of who were on friendly terms. Closer proximity naturally resulted in heightened tensions and conflicts, endangering not just the tribe members themselves but also the increasing population of fur traders and pioneers who were employing the Arkansas River Valley as a funnel into the southwest. After Arkansas became an official part of the United States as the District of Arkansas in 1803, the federal government perceived a need to intervene in intertribal hostilities on the western edge of the burgeoning country. A new fort was established in 1817 on the banks of the Arkansas River where it meets the Poteau River, on a promontory of bluffs called Belle Point; the fort was named for General Thomas Smith of the federal garrison in St. Louis. For the next seven years, Fort Smith military personnel arbitrated clashes between the Osage and Cherokee tribes, negotiated treaties, and also patrolled the borders of the United States that were contested by Spain.

The military presence in Arkansas allowed for an influx of settlers from the east, and a community began to grow up around Fort Smith. New businesses catered to the soldiers with a drive to keep the installation occupied and thriving. Military forts of the time typically had a relatively brief lifespan as the western boundary of the United States continued to edge toward the Pacific. Indeed, the troops encamped at Fort Smith were relocated further west in 1924; the fort retained its utility by serving as the headquarters for the Western Choctaw Agency and also as the hub of enforcement for prohibition activities in that area. Location played a major role in Fort Smith's continued viability; the Arkansas River Valley provided easy access to the west where the fort and its surrounding community became the meeting point for many primary roads. The federal government and its military more and more viewed Fort Smith as a strategic site based on access and the fact that it was near but not encroaching a newly established Choctaw reservation in what had come to be known as Indian Territory. A new Fort Smith garrison was constructed in 1938, bringing with it an official town of the same name.

Fort Smith: A Stop on the "Trail of Tears"

The history of Fort Smith is inextricably interwoven with that of native peoples in the United States, from the fort's time as a peacekeeping entity to the part it played in the forced relocation of thousands of native tribes west of the Mississippi River. During Thomas Jefferson's tenure as president, American citizens began to wish for more land and less conflict with the previous inhabitants of the eastern area. Jefferson's proposed solution was to relocate eastern native tribes to a buffer zone between U.S. territory holdings and land claimed by European countries. Between 1816 and 1840, a number of eastern tribes ceded their land to the United States and voluntarily headed west to what is now Oklahoma. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson put into effect further plans for the relocation of eastern native peoples; the result was an exodus of more than 100,000 native men, women and children on an arduous route that took them halfway across the country. There were several points of debarkation and several western routes used, but the "Trail of Tears" ultimately passed right through the gateway community of Fort Smith. Military installations in the area assisted tribe members in rejoining their own communities or held them temporarily while land assignments were made.

Fort Smith had come full circle. Its troops were once again in the position of keeping watch on a forced collective of age-old foes and allies in a relatively concentrated area, more for purposes of protecting pioneers and California-bound prospectors of European descent than for protecting and preserving the tribes themselves. But then came a new kind of war.

Citizen Against Citizen: The Civil War at Fort Smith

In 1860, the state of Arkansas had achieved a population of 435,450 people, 111,115 of whom were slaves of African descent and 11,481 of whom were slave owners of primarily European background. It appeared inevitable that when the Confederacy voted to secede from the Union in April 1861, Arkansas would be on board with the Confederates; however, while more than 60,000 Arkansas residents joined rebel troops, at least 9,000 Anglos and more than 5,000 African Americans fought on the side of the Union in this conflict that divided communities and families. Fort Smith was no exceptionit began its participation in the war as a Confederate military installation and supply depot until September 1, 1863, when Union troops took the post.

Fort Smith's strategic location on intersecting rivers and roads made it both a valuable staging area as a Union outpost and a continuing target for the Confederate faithful holed up in the surrounding mountains and in Indian Territory. The garrison became, not for the last time in history, a refuge for besieged citizens aligned with the Union and suffered through much deprivation when supply sources were ambushed by rebel troops. In 1865, Confederate leadership officially turned Arkansas, Texas and Indian Territory over to the Union, and the Fort Smith Confederates returned home to begin the work of rebuilding for the community's future.

Reconstruction, Retribution and Reconciliation

Post-Civil War Reconstruction returned some of the states in the Union to a military form of government; consequently, Fort Smith became an outpost in the subdistrict of Arkansas, charged with enforcement of Reconstruction regulations and registration of freedmen. As a community, Fort Smith's function began to evolve from military to administration of frontier justice, as a succession of tough judges presided on the bench and attempted to impose order on the populace. Judge Isaac Parker, the infamous "hanging judge," meted out sentences over a 21-year period, ordering hundreds of defendants to jail and 160 men to "hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!"

In 1896, Fort Smith ceased operations as a military outpost and the community's focus became that of municipal growth while sustaining the city's formative history. Reverberations from the Civil War continued as, in 1891, Jim Crow legislation was passed segregating rail stations and keeping the population divided literally and figuratively, until the issue of integration came to a head in 1957. In the interim, Arkansas weathered the Great Depression, accompanied as it was by crop-killing drought and the departure of many citizens from Fort Smith and Arkansas in general for what appeared to be greener pastures.

As the country began to rebound, Fort Smith established its identity as an industrial hub seated fortuitously at the nexus of two rivers leading to the Mississippi and an abundance of roadways radiating off across the country. The former military installation briefly served as a relocation camp for Japanese and German U.S. citizens during World War II, but in 1975 and 1980 also provided shelter and transition for Vietnamese and Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Fort Smith's public school system now proudly embraces the diversity of its students even as the city embraces its history; adaptability and survival may be the best descriptors for the former Wild West town.

Historical Information: Fort Smith Historical Society, PO Box 3676, Fort Smith, AR 72913; telephone (479)478-6323

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Fort Smith: Economy

Fort Smith: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Fort Smith is the manufacturing hub of Arkansas, with more goods produced in that vicinity than anywhere else in the state. National and international companies such as Weyerhauser, Gerber Foods, Whirlpool Corporation and Rheem Air Conditioning Products have facilities in Fort Smith and employ thousands of area workers to generate wood and paper products, food products, air conditioning system components and appliances. Recreation and tourism, particularly structured around the unique history of Fort Smith, is a growing industry with a workforce that is growing apace.

Items and goods produced: air conditioning systems, food products, appliances, paper products, wood products, composite building materials

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

In conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Economic Development, Fort Smith offers a variety of investment and job creation incentives designed to attract and retain thriving businesses.

State programs

Arkansas' incentive plan was updated in 2003; counties are divided into four tiers based on rates in the areas of poverty, unemployment, per capita income and population growth. More lucrative incentives are offered for businesses that choose to locate in underserved counties.

Start-up businesses can take advantage of several incentive packages, including Advantage Arkansas (an income tax credit program), Tax Back (refunds of sales and use taxes), and InvestArk (a sales and use tax credit program). Businesses in highly competitive categories such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology may be eligible for incentive programs such as Create Rebate (payroll rebates) and the ArkPlus income tax credit program.

The State of Arkansas additionally provides specialized incentive programs to encourage development of specific components of a business (child care facilities, customized training, recycling) or to recruit particular industries to the area (motion picture companies, tourism businesses).

Job training programs

The Arkansas Construction Education Foundation Training Program offers classroom and real-world experience through apprenticeship programs in Fort Smith and three other Arkansas locations. The University of Arkansas Fort Smith's Center for Business and Professional Development partners with local companies to develop skills of employees.

Development Projects

With Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, the City of Fort Smith is implementing a 5-year strategic action plan to address affordable housing issues, increase resources for the homeless, and attract corporate expansion and relocations in the metropolitan area to increase employment opportunities for mid- and low-income community members. A number of the plan's strategies seek to increase the income of workers in relation to their rental or mortgage burden, with tactics to include promotion of General Education Development (GED) programs that serve adults, encouragement of higher education for workers, and provision of quality childcare services that will allow parents to work outside of the home.

Downtown Fort Smith has experienced a renaissance in response to a growing tourism and convention market. The Fort Smith Downtown Development association has thrown considerable energy into recruiting businesses into the area and into increased valuation of properties, including $55 million in improvements to the Fort Smith Convention Center, the Riverfront Development and Garrison Street. Building on the draw of Fort Smith's history, the municipal government has agreed to restore brick streets in the Belle Grove Historic District in downtown.

Nearby Fort Chaffee is undergoing change at the start of the new century as well. The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, created in 1997 after the base was closed in 1995, is in the process of creating residential, commercial and industrial resources on 7,000 acres of former military land. The new Chaffee Crossing will preserve the local history of the fort while offering modern facilities, parks, homes and business opportunities. Some office and warehouse buildings are already available for leasing; the remainder of the project is still undergoing development.

Economic Development Information: Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 1668, Fort Smith, AR 72902; telephone 479-783-6118; email info@fortsmithchamber.com

Commercial Shipping

Sited at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers, the Port of Fort Smith is experiencing growth in tonnage, primarily composed of steel and scrap metal, passing through its terminal and on through the Mississippi River system. The port is served by the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad and a variety of trucking companies. In general, local trucking companies have seen continued demand for service as they transport general commodities throughout the United States. Air freight services are also available through local companies and the Fort Smith Regional Airport, which serves an eight-county area.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

With a strong base of manufacturing and the recent addition of a major medical center, Fort Smith is experiencing an upswing in employment, as evidenced by decreased layoffs compared to years previous. From 1990 to 2001, the Fort Smith metropolitan area demonstrated a 26.2% growth in nonfarm employment, compared to a rate of 25.2% for the state of Arkansas. Mainstay local manufacturers such as Gerber Foods, Weyerhauser, Rheem Air Conditioning and Whirlpool Corporation all provide products for which there appears to be relatively stable demand, thereby minimizing employment fluctuations. Growing areas of employment include health services, as well as leisure and hospitality. With a growing and involved local university, Fort Smith is seeing increasing support for professional and business service professions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a long term shift from goods-producing employment to service-producing activities is expected.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Fort Smith metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 99,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 1,000

construction: 4,500

manufacturing: 25,400

trade, transportation and public utilities: 19,700

information: 1,600

financial activities: 3,600

professional and business services: 9,700

educational and health services: 12,800

leisure and hospitality: 7,200

other services: 2,800

government: 11,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $13.73

Unemployment rate: 4.5% (November 2004)

Largest employers Number of employees
Whirlpool Corporation 4,500
Sparks Regional Medical center 2,180
Rheem Air Conditioning Products 1,592
City of Fort Smith 850
University of Arkansas at Fort Smith 807
Gerber Products 600
Owens-Corning (Composite Materials Division) not reported
Planters Peanuts Company not reported

Cost of Living

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 85.7

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $205,946

State income tax rate: Ranges from 1% on the first $3,999 of net taxable income to 7% on amounts over $27,500

State sales tax rate: 6%

Local income tax rate: 1.5%

Local sales tax rate: 2% on taxable goods and services

Property tax rate: Assessed valuation is equal to 20% of the market value of property

Economic information: Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 1668, Fort Smith, AR 72902; telephone (479)783-6118; email info@fortsmithchamber.com

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Fort Smith: Education and Research

Fort Smith: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

The Fort Smith Public Schools (FSPS) offers education services to students within the city's municipal boundaries, with students from outside the area eligible to apply to the School of Choice program. The student population increased slightly during the 2003-2004 school year, with the most marked growth in non-English speaking and economically disadvantaged students. Fort Smith Public Schools celebrates its diversity, noting that 20 languages are spoken by FSPS students. The school system demonstrates gains on all categories of the Arkansas End of Course tests, which determine student mastery of essential academic skills and knowledge in areas of core knowledge.

Eight Fort Smith elementary schools and all of its secondary schools were designated as Arkansas Schools of Excellence for the 2003-2004 school year; two high schools were selected as National Schools of Excellence. The school district has created discipline-specific task forces to support curriculum development in math, science, literacy and social sciences. Other facilities in the school district include an adult education center, a parent resource center, an alternative learning center, and a professional development and technology center.

Recent legislation passed by the Arkansas General Assembly promises to have a significant impact on the Fort Smith Public School System, including increases in funding available for education of students from lower-income families and students with limited backgrounds in English language, a higher minimum teacher's salary, and additional financial support for early childhood programs.

The following is a summary of data regarding Fort Smith Public Schools as of the 2003-2004 school year.

Total enrollment: 12,871

Number of facilities

elementary schools: 19

junior high/middle schools: 4

high schools: 2

other: 4

Student/teacher ratio: 16:1

Teacher salaries

minimum: $29,750

maximum: $56,545

Funding per pupil: $6,863

Preschool, Headstart and specialized programs are offered privately or through religious institutions.

Public Schools Information: Fort Smith Public Schools, 3105 Jenny Lind, PO Box 1948, Fort Smith, AR 72902-1948; telephone (479)785-2501

Colleges and Universities

Institutions of higher education in Fort Smith offer a full array of academic opportunities including associate degrees, bachelor degrees, and master's degrees through the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, the University Center at Westark and the Business and Industrial Institute. Advanced degrees are also available through John Brown University and Webster University. The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UA Fort Smith) is the fifth largest institution of higher education in the state, with an enrollment of 6,406 reported for fall 2003. UA Fort Smith offers a range of educational degree programs, including technical certifications, certificates of proficiency, associate degrees, bachelor degrees and master's degrees. UA Fort Smith students are able to tap into the resources of other University of Arkansas campuses via the University Center; an active and involved Business and Professional Institute at the University offers training and continuing education programs to area businesses and community agencies. Health Sciences is also an education concentration that makes UA Fort Smith remarkable; between Business and Health Sciences students, UA Fort Smith provides the state of Arkansas with the bulk of its technical and health care workers.

John Brown University (JBU), a private Christian institution, maintains an educational outreach center in Fort Smith. Total enrollment for JBU in 2004 was 1,947; students were offered 51 undergraduate majors and 6 graduate programs. Two endowed, associated centers located at JBU indicate the university's commitment to graduating civically engaged students: The Soderquist Center for Leadership & Ethics and the Center for Marriage and Family Studies.

Webster University has played a unique role in the local community. Located on the grounds of nearby decommissioned Fort Chaffee in 1989, the University originally provided graduate level classes to military personnel through the Joint Readiness Training Center. In 1991, Webster University made a commitment to stay in Fort Smith but has now focused on master's degree programming in Human Resource Management and Business Administration.

Libraries and Research Centers

Having the University of Arkansas as a community partner allows Fort Smith residents to take advantage of its Boreham Library, with access to thousands of books, periodicals and databases; the Health Sciences program at UA Fort Smith also maintains a specialized library that benefits not only its students but residents working in the healthcare sector.

The Fort Smith Public Libraries system is comprised of one main library and three branch libraries, supplemented by a bookmobile program. In February of 2001, the main library's new building was featured on the cover of an architectural edition of Library Journal. The library also hosts a specialized section for genealogical research. A law library is available at the Sebastian County Courthouse facility in Fort Smith. The Fort Smith Historical Society produces a journal and maintains archives of historical information regarding the city and its environs.

Public Library Information: Fort Smith Public Library, 3201 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, AR 72903; telephone (479)783-0229

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Fort Smith: Population Profile

Fort Smith: Population Profile

Metropolitan Area Residents (MSA)

1980: 203,511

1990: 175,911

2000: 207,290

Percent change, 19902000: 17.8%

U.S. rank in 2000: 162nd

City Residents

1980: 72,734

1990: 73,511

2000: 80,268

2003 estimate: 81,562

Percent change, 19902000: 9.2%

U.S. rank in 2000: 363rd

Density: 1,594.2 people per square mile (2000)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 63,868

Black or African American: 7,548

American Indian and Alaska Native: 2,541

Asian: 4,101

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 105

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 7,048

Other: 4,040

Percent of residents born in state: 56.1%

Age characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 6,083

Population 5 to 9 years old: 5,581

Population 10 to 14 years old: 5,363

Population 15 to 19 years old: 5,586

Population 20 to 24 years old: 5,681

Population 25 to 34 years old: 11,454

Population 35 to 44 years old: 12,040

Population 45 to 54 years old: 10,513

Population 55 to 59 years old: 3,884

Population 60 to 64 years old: 3,082

Population 65 to 74 years old: 5,376

Population 75 to 84 years old: 4,113

Population 85 years and over: 1,512

Median age: 35.3

Births (Sebastian County; 2001)

Total number: 1,827

Deaths (Sebastian County; 2001)

Total number: 1,134

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $18,994

Median household income: $32,157

Total households: 32,398

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 4,095

$10,000 to $14,999: 2,887

$15,000 to $24,999: 5,374

$25,000 to $34,999: 5,092

$35,000 to $49,999: 5,054

$50,000 to $74,999: 5,233

$75,000 to $99,999: 2,092

$100,000 to $149,999: 1,537

$150,000 to $199,999: 405

$200,000 or more: 676

Percent of families below poverty level: 12.1% (59.7% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 7,498

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Fort Smith: Health Care

Fort Smith: Health Care

The greater Fort Smith Arkansas-Oklahoma metropolitan area of 11 counties is served by 5 hospitals and 23 clinics, with outpatient and specialty services being provided by 591 organizations and individuals in private practice. The primary provider of healthcare services locally is Sparks Regional Medical Center, established in Arkansas in 1887. Sparks offers a range of outpatient and inpatient services, from preventive programs for diabetes and heart disease to rehabilitation for post-operative patients. The hospital's oncology unit is supported by a local cancer care house for the comfort and convenience of cancer patients and their families. Saint Edward Mercy Medical Center, an affiliate of the Sisters of Mercy healthcare network, has served the Fort Smith community since 1905, providing acute care medical intervention to the metropolitan area. Specialties of the medical center include behavioral services, a hospice program, and the Mercy Northside Clinic, which provides affordable healthcare and bilingual staff to an underserved segment of the Fort Smith population. Vista Health of Fort Smith, originally part of the Saint Edward Mercy system, now acts as a stand-alone not-for-profit behavioral health provider of inpatient and outpatient services to adults, adolescents and children. Sixteen local organizations and individuals provide alternative health care services to the metropolitan community.

Fort Smith and greater Sebastian County are in the process of mobilizing a Hometown Health Initiative under the auspices of the Arkansas Department of Health. The Initiative encourages communities to actively participate in large-scale prevention and health improvement.

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Fort Smith: Transportation

Fort Smith: Transportation

Approaching the City

The Fort Smith Regional Airport is located just outside the city limits to the south, at 6700 McKennon Blvd., and is served by American and Northwest Airlines. In 2002, the airport completed a new terminal complex with improved accommodations for waiting passengers. This effort was to be followed in 2004 by the construction of two new jet bridges that would allow passengers to avoid inclement weather when boarding planes. Car rental services are available at the airport terminal, which is also the site of an aviation museum.

Vehicle traffic enters and exits Fort Smith via a network of interstate, national and state highways, including Interstates 40 and 540, State highway 22, and U.S. Highways 71 and 64. Greyhound Bus service operates a terminal in Fort Smith, which is located at 116 N. 6th St.

Aside from rail service linked to the Port of Fort Smith, there is no passenger train route through the vicinity.

Traveling in the City

Streets in the downtown area of Fort Smith are laid out in a grid pattern with somewhat of a northeastern orientation. U.S. Highway 64 and State Highway 22 intersect in the heart of Fort Smith, while Interstate 540 provides a bypass around the downtown area. The Fort Smith Transit Department provides daytime and nighttime bus service to most parts of the city, and specialized services are available for community members and visitors with disabilities. The Fort Smith Trolley offers limited transportation between some downtown attractions.

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Fort Smith: Communications

Fort Smith: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

The city of Fort Smith's local daily paper, the Times Record is circulated throughout the Fort Smith metropolitan area and Sebastian County. A magazine detailing local events, Entertainment Fort Smith, is also published locally.

Television and Radio

Fort Smith is served by seven television stations, with four representing the major networks, one Fox affiliate, one UPN affiliate and independent station KFSM-TV. Approximately 33 radio stations broadcast in the Fort Smith metro area, running the gamut from alternative rock to talk radio.

Media Information: Times Record, 3600 Wheeler Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72901; telephone (479)785-7700

Fort Smith Online

City of Fort Smith. Available www.fsark.com

Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau. Available www.fortsmith.org

Fort Smith National Historical Site. Available www.nps.gov/fosm

Fort Smith Public Library. Available www.fspl.lib.ar.us

Fort Smith Public Schools. Available www.fssc.k12.ar.us

Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. Available www.fschamber.com

Times Record. Available www.swtimes.com

Western Arkansas Planning and Development District. Available www.wapdd.org

Selected Bibliography

Bears, Edwin C. and Arrell M. Gibson, Fort Smith: Little Gibraltar on the Arkansas, Second Edition University of Oklahoma Press, 1979

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Fort Smith

Fort Smith

Fort Smith: Introduction
Fort Smith: Geography and Climate
Fort Smith: History
Fort Smith: Population Profile
Fort Smith: Municipal Government
Fort Smith: Economy
Fort Smith: Education and Research
Fort Smith: Health Care
Fort Smith: Recreation
Fort Smith: Convention Facilities
Fort Smith: Transportation
Fort Smith: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1817

Head Official: Mayor C. Ray Baker, Jr. (unaffiliated) (since 1991)

City Population

1980: 72,734

1990: 73,511

2000: 80,268

2003 estimate: 81,562

Percent change, 19902000: 9.2%

U.S. rank in 2000: 363

Metropolitan Area Population

1980: 203,511

1990: 175,911

2000: 207,290

Percent change, 19902000: 17.8%

U.S. rank in 2000: 162nd

Area: 52.94 square miles (2000)

Elevation: 463 feet above sea level

Average Annual Temperature: 61° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 40.9 total inches of precipitation; 6.2 inches of snow

Major Economic Sectors: Manufacturing, trade, transportation, utilities, education, health services, government

Unemployment rate: 4.5% (November 2004)

Per Capita Income: $18,994 (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 7,498

Major Colleges and Universities: University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Webster University, John Brown University

Daily Newspaper: The Times Record

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Fort Smith: Convention Facilities

Fort Smith: Convention Facilities

Central to the Belle Grove Historic District, the U.S. National Cemetery, the Riverfront Park, and other downtown attractions is the Fort Smith Convention Center. The facility was completed in 2001 and features 40,000 feet of open space that can be subdivided, 8 conference rooms, theater-style seating for up to 5,200 people, banquet-style seating for 2,700 people, room for 231 exhibit booths, and a performing arts theater that can seat up to 1,331 in the audience.

Slightly north and east of the downtown Fort Smith area is Kay Rodgers Park, which annually hosts the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair and the Old Fort Rodeo and Barrel Racing Futurity. Kay Rodgers Park is home to the Expo Center, with 24,000 feet of meeting and exhibition space, and the Harper Arena. The Harper Arena is a covered open-air stadium that can seat 7,000 to 14,000 attendees for a variety of events. Barns and a smaller arena are also available. Plentiful parking accommodates RVs and smaller vehicles.

Meeting rooms and pavilions can be reserved through the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Fort Smith.

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Fort Smith: Introduction

Fort Smith: Introduction

Located on the Arkansas River where the state of Arkansas meets Oklahoma, Fort Smith is the western gateway to Arkansas. The former military fort was situated with great purpose in 1817 to separate warring native tribes, and its location continues to serve Fort Smith today as a manufacturing and tourism destination. The Arkansas River Valley separates the Ozark Plateau from the Ouachita Mountains, giving Fort Smith visitors and residents a smorgasbord of outdoor activities in which to participate. Fort Smith is known as the Wild West town of Arkansas, capitalizing on its history as a frontier military installation and the site of "Hanging" Judge Parker's notorious courtroom. During and just after the Civil War, former slaves and refugees from repressive regimes found a temporary home in Fort Smith and nearby Fort Chaffee in anticipation of a more democratic style of life. Today, Fort Smith remains a gateway to and from the west as a mecca for manufacturing businesses and as a burgeoning tourist destination on its own merits.

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Fort Smith: Geography and Climate

Fort Smith: Geography and Climate

Fort Smith is located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, where it is bisected by the Arkansas River and sandwiched between the Ouachita and Ozark national forests. Built on the flats left by the meandering river, the city is level and green but enjoys easy access to mountains. Fort Smith sees the sun more than 200 days out of the year and experiences temperate weather during most months. The winters are generally mild, with less than seven inches of snow on average, while the summers are warm and often humid. Fort Smith sits at the edge of the reputed "Tornado Alley," and in spring of 1996 its downtown was devastated by a class F2 (on the Fujita scale based on damage, with F1 being lowest to F5 being highest) twister.

Area: 52.94 square miles (2000)

Elevation: Approximately 463 feet above sea level

Average Temperatures: January, 36.1° F; July, 81.5° F; annual average, 61° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 40.9 total inches of precipitation; 6.2 inches of snow

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Fort Smith: Municipal Government

Fort Smith: Municipal Government

Fort Smith operates under a city administrator form of government in which the governing body is composed of a mayor and seven board directors. Four of the directors represent wards of the City of Fort Smith, while the mayor and the other three directors are elected by the broader population of the city. Terms of service are four years in duration, with off-set elections. The Board of Directors is chaired by the mayor and oversees matters of policy and budget. The board employs a city administrator to oversee daily operations for the city.

Head Official: Mayor C. Ray Baker, Jr. (unaffiliated) (since 1991; current term expires 2006)

Total Number of City Employees: 850 (2005)

City Information: City of Fort Smith, 623 Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72901; mailing address PO Box 1908, Fort Smith, AR 72902; telephone (479)785-2801

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Fort Smith (city, United States)

Fort Smith, city (1990 pop. 72,798), seat of Sebastian co., NW Ark., at the Okla. line where the Arkansas and Poteau rivers join; inc. 1842. It is the rail, trade, and industrial center of a farm and livestock area. Its manufactures include construction materials, food and beverages, textiles, furniture, and hardware. An 1817 military post here became a supply point during the 1848 gold rush; the lawless area was cleaned up (1870s) by "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker, but Bordello Row and other reminders are celebrated today. The Fort Smith National Historic Site includes the Old Fort Museum and Judge Parker's court (see National Parks and Monuments, table). A national Civil War cemetery and an annual rodeo draw visitors. In 1969 the city was linked by the Arkansas River project with the Gulf of Mexico; the dam built east of Fort Smith created a large lake.

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