Photo by John David Pittman

BACK TO MAIN

Best Reason to Root for the Home Team | Little Rock Rangers

When the Little Rock Rangers won out against the undefeated Laredo Heat SC in their South Region Final in Laredo, Texas, on Tuesday, July 17, things got … complicated. After footing the bill for a road trip down to the heart of the Lone Star State, there wasn’t enough money in the budget to fly the 22 players and staff to Miami to continue their NPSL playoff run. So the following morning, coach Jonathan Wardlaw started a GoFundMe account and turned to fans of the minor-league soccer team for help. Within an hour, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, 63 people had donated more than $6,000. Within 24 hours, 249 people had chipped in with the $20,000 the team needed. “Can you believe that?” Wardlaw told the ADG’s Brooks Kubena. “It’s humbling. It makes it worthwhile. We didn’t get into this for financial reasons, to make money, but we got into it to improve the sports area and raise awareness, make soccer fans, and I think we’re doing it. It’s working.” (littlerockrangers.com)


Best Way to Keep Arkansas Beautiful | Zilch

Staff Pick

Around 500 million disposable plastic straws end up in the garbage each day in the U.S. alone, eventually making their way to our landfills, streams, oceans and beaches. Doesn’t seem like something the Natural State should be associated with, does it? The folks behind Zilch in Bentonville didn’t think so, either. That’s why, back in March, the organization launched an initiative encouraging Arkansans to reduce their consumption of plastic straws. And you know what? It’s working. Restaurants such as The Farmer’s Table in Fayetteville, and Fassler Hall, The Dust Bowl and Nexus Coffee & Creative, all in Little Rock, have moved to providing straws only when requested. When The Farmer’s Table does provide straws, they’re made from local corn product and are 100 percent compostable, while Nexus provides reusable glass straws. (facebook.com/zilchnwa)


Best Road to Greatness | Professor Michelle Bernhardt-Berry

On the surface, it’s not an especially revolutionary statement: A University of Arkansas professor has dreamed up dirt roads. Well, you might be thinking, we’ve already got those in Arkansas. But here’s the thing: We don’t—at least not like this. Over the course of the next five years, the professor in question, Michelle Bernhardt-Barry, aided by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, is going to study the possibility of using 3-D printers to create strong roads from soil and sand—and without the use of concrete. Although she’s undoubtedly got a tough road ahead, we think it’s fair to say this: She’s already hit pay dirt.


Best New Trails to Grind | Fitzgerald Trail System

Why should Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville get to have all the mountain-biking fun? If that’s what middle-child Springdale was saying, the Walton Family Foundation was listening. Thanks to a $1.16 million grant from the foundation to the NWA Trailblazers, Springdale-ians can now cruise 10 miles of trails—8 of which are open, with the remaining two to come this fall—atop the city’s scenic Fitzgerald Mountain. This addition brings the Oz Trails tally to 200 miles and counting, furthering Northwest Arkansas’ status as a riding destination on par with the likes of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. (oztrailsnwa.com)


Capture Arkansas | Trent Sugg

Best Snake in the Grass | Rattlesnake Ridge

It’s tough to say what the name best describes. Maybe it’s that craggy ridge of humpbacked white rock rising serpentine above the green Ouachita hills. Maybe it’s shorthand for the western diamondback rattlesnake, whose scant presence elsewhere contributed to the decision to make the 373-acre tract part of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s System of Natural Areas. Regardless of what you call it, however, there’s one thing that supersedes the rest: Given its status as an ecologically significant area—it’s the watershed divide between the Little Maumelle and Big Maumelle rivers—and the home it provides to many rare species, we’re just glad to call it our own.  (naturalheritage.com/natural-areas/rattlesnake-ridge-natural-area)


Best Places to Watch the Best Meteor Shower

“After about 11:30 p.m. on [Friday], Aug. 10, if you are under a dark sky, you will probably see some meteors,” says Bruce McMath, chapter chair of the Arkansas Natural Sky Association, of this year’s Perseid peak. “The longer you stay up, the more you’ll start seeing—maybe a dozen an hour. Saturday night, double that, and then Sunday night into Monday morning, the rate will climb a good deal more.” Want to increase your chances of being in the right (read: darkest) place at the right time? Head to one of these spots, which have been vetted by the folks at the Arkansas Natural Sky Association (darkskyarkansas.com/natural-sky-map):

Know of other dark-sky spots that are prime for stargazing? You can add them to the map at darkskyarkansas.com; Capture Arkansas | Jeff Rose

NORTHWEST: Head to Hobbs State Park, which plays host on the reg to the folks from the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society. (Their next “star party” isn’t until Sept. 8, though.) Ask the friendly folks at the Visitor’s Center for advice on where to safely stargaze. (arkansasstateparks.com/hobbs)

BUFFALO RIVER AREA: Grab a campsite at either Buffalo Point, Steel Creek, Erbie, Woolum or Tyler Bend to take advantage of some of the state’s darkest night skies. (nps.gov/buff)

CENTRAL: On Aug. 12, you can set sail from Pinnacle Mountain State Park’s Jolly Rogers Marina and watch the show from the middle of Lake Maumelle. (arkansasstateparks.com/pinnacle)

NORTHEAST: Pitch a tent atop Crowley’s Ridge at Village Creek State Park, which is removed enough from the visual hubbub to allow for grade-A sky watching. (arkansasstateparks.com/villagecreek)

SOUTHWEST: The Red River Astronomy Club’s Area 52 Observatory is located under the darkest night sky within an hour of Texarkana. Pay attention to the group’s Facebook page for info on watch parties. (Search Red River Astronomy Club on Facebook)

SOUTHEAST: Nestled into 2,171 acres of Delta woodlands, Cane Creek State Park offers plenty of opportunities to settle in for a star show. Our pick? Rent the park’s RV campsite (air conditioning!), then cut the lights when the meteors start doing their thing. (arkansasstateparks.com/canecreek)

BACK TO MAIN