MAYFLOWER — A woman who lives at the end of Jones Lane became concerned years ago as a whirlpool began tearing away chunks of her yard. Now, her neighbors have banded together to help bring a voice to the deteriorating integrity of the neighborhood.
The group calls itself the Jones Lane Coalition.
Resident Jim Blissit started the group.
Blissit has lived on Jones Lane along the Arkansas River for 12 years. The Mayflower man said he hopes to bring justice to the issue he and other residents believe started in the 1990s.
“I started it, but I’m not heading it,” Blissit said of the Jones Lane Coalition. “It’s property owners who live here on Jones Lane getting together to try to get the message out about what’s happening here in the neighborhood. The bank up the street from here is eroding, houses are in danger [and] it’s going to affect the whole neighborhood and everyone’s property value.”
Sandra K. Dillon purchased the residence at 127 Jones Lane in August 2014. Since then, she has watched her property disappear through the years.
Following the 2016 flood, County Judge Jim Baker took Rep. French Hill to the Jones Lane residence, citing it was in “dire need of help.”
At the time, 60 feet of the property had washed away due to erosion caused by a whirlpool. The eddy next to the property was caused by poor bank stabilization after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed dikes in the river about 28 years ago.
Over time, issues in the area have worsened.
Standing in his flood-ruined home Wednesday afternoon, Blissit said he also believes the Corps of Engineers is at fault. A pier used to dump rocks onto barges was never removed after it was no longer needed, which has created a great deal of stress for those living on Jones Lane, especially for Dillon, he said.
“It never was removed, and during high-water events, it causes an eddy, or a whirlpool, that’s eating the bank,” Blissit said. “It’s not a natural thing … [and] it’s causing significant erosion. It would be easy to fix. They could come in, smooth that bank up and fill it with rock.”
Guy Couch lives adjacent to Dillon’s property.
While he has only lived along the river for about two and a half years, he is now losing parts of his property as well.
“I’ve been watching it a lot,” he said, adding that by 3 p.m. Wednesday, he had checked on Dillon’s property three times. “I thought I would stay here and watch the flood … but it was coming up pretty fast.”
Now, a portion of his 5-acre plot has been affected by the eddy that spins along the bank.
“I lost one tree and she lost three more trees,” Couch said. “It’s on my property now, so that makes a difference.”
Blissit and Couch both had at up to 9 inches of flood water fill their homes.
“It’s very stressful,” Blissit said.
After the flood waters receded, Jones Lane residents began gutting their homes — cutting drywall, tearing out carpets and drying wood floors.
With help from friends and volunteers from local churches, residents have been hard at work for days. The workload likely will not be over any time soon.
“This floor, we can save it if we can get it dry, and it’s getting dry,” Blissit said while standing in his now-empty living room.”
Blissit also began working on damages underneath his home Wednesday morning. Equipped with a razor blade, he worked his way through the “slick, slimy mud” and began cutting out soiled insulation.
Jones Lane residents said they are hopeful work to save their homes will be done as they fight to raise awareness about the issues they are faced with.
Dillon’s home is in the most critical danger. Waters have started washing out the land from underneath the foundation of her home.
Couch, who checks on Dillon’s residence often, said it “was pretty depressing” to return home after the flood waters receded to find his land is now also affected.
“It was so real,” he said.
Couch will now have to leave his home for an additional six months, he said.
After hiring a reconstruction crew to save his home, they will need six months to complete the project.
“That was shocking, just shocking,” he said of learning he would need to move out for so long.
Luckily, he said he can stay at his old house in Little Rock until the repairs are complete.
County Attorney David Hogue said he’s noticed the Corps of Engineers has stepped in to stabilize banks along farmland affected during the flooding event. Blissit said he realizes the need to save these properties, but also that he hopes something will be done along Jones Lane soon.
“Farms are important, but so are these homes,” he said.