Memorial and Tribute Float Honors Late Arkansas Congressman
05/24/2015 09:37 PM
05/24/2015 09:54 PM
HARRISON, Ark.-- Heavy rain didn't keep people coming out to the Buffalo River to honor late Arkansas Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt.
He died on April 1, 2015 at the age of 92.
Hammerschmidt was instrumental in protecting the Buffalo River from being dammed 40 years ago.
Family members of Hammerschmidt said his love of the river dated back to when he was only 12 years old.
This passion would eventually grow into an effort to preserve the river, for generations to come.
By land and water, people gathered to honor the Arkansas icon.
"My dad would be very humbled by this event even occurring," said John Arthur Hammerschmidt, the son of Hammerschmidt.
The memorial and tribute float commemorated the legacy of the former congressman and WWII veteran.
Hammerschmidt is known as the founding father of the GOP in his once solidly blue state. He went on to serve 26 years in Congress. One of his greatest achievements was protecting the Buffalo River.
"He knew the value of this," said Mike Masterson, the nephew of Hammerschmidt. "You just have to look around you and see the river itself to realize how magnificent this is."
In 1972, Hammerschmidt successfully got Congress to pass his legislation to make the Buffalo River the first national river in America. It's a lasting legacy Hammerschmidt's son is proud of.
"My dad could almost always see the big picture," said John Arthur. "I'm sure he thought this river would serve others for years and years to come."
Right now, people get to enjoy the beauty of the Buffalo River. But some said it needs to be continually protected from potential threats.
"The immediate threat is the water quality," said Don Castleberry, a retired National Park Service Midwest Regional Director.
Castleberry said the threat comes from hog farm production waste nearby.
"The potential for pollution as a result of the waste filtering themselves down the Karst typography and actually contaminating the river," said Castleberry.
Until that threat becomes a reality, conservation groups vow to protect what Hammerschmidt worked so hard to preserve.
"This matters to too many people, the beauty of this place, the uniqueness of this place, the spiritual nature of this place to ever let it go," said Masterson.
The Buffalo Watershed Alliance put on the event, and various conservation and canoe groups came to join the festivities.
People also wrote notes for the Hammerschmidt family to honor the late congressman.