Blue Spring on national list

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

The Blue Spring Bluff Shelter in the Eureka Springs Gardens has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

John F. Cross of The John F. Cross Family Limited Partnership received notice of the listing Friday afternoon from Ken Grunewald, director of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) in Little Rock.

Blue Spring is approximately five miles west of Eureka Springs, north of Highway 62 at Inspiration Point. The spring is one of the largest in the region and pumps approximately 38 million gallons of water per day into the White River.

The property was nominated to the National Register in November of 2002, along with 12 others in eight Arkansas counties.

According to the nomination form, the shelter site, above the Blue Spring lagoon, reflects habitation during the Early Archaic, Middle Archaic, Late Archaic and Mississippian time periods.

It is protected from daily visitors although it can be seen from the walking path to the spring area.

"The archeological deposits at the Blue Spring Shelter can provide critical information about the nature of Archaic life and settlement in at least one river valley in northwest Arkansas," it says.

"The shelter goes back more than 10,000 years," Cross said. "It has been used by Indians, soldiers from both the North and South during the Civil War, and by the Cherokees marching on the Trail of Tears into Oklahoma.

"We are very excited to get this news," he said. "This is the first step in turning things around out there and in bringing more tourism into this area."

The Family Partnership includes Cross and his four children. The group bought Blue Spring and the surrounding 250 acres, including approximately three miles of river shoreline, in June of 2002 for $1.5 million.

John Cross' grandfather, Claude Fuller, once owned several hundred acres in the White River Valley from Martz Mount to Busch, which included the Blue Spring.

The Bank of Eureka Springs took over operation of the Gardens in November of 1997 when the former owners defaulted on loans.

In November of 1999, a Chancery Court Commissioner's foreclosure auction was held to recover approximately $1,558,000 owed to the bank.

The bank was the only bidder on the property, although the sale had been well advertised and was well attended.

The bank continued to try to find buyers for the property. A purchase proposal was sent to the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism to turn the area into a state park.

Governor Mike Huckabee made two trips to Blue Spring, one with directors of state agencies, but the state was unable to secure funding, according to Cross.

Former state Sen. Jon Fitch, D-Hindsville, introduced a bill in the state legislature to purchase the Gardens for $1.5 million. The bill got out of committee with a recommendation to purchase the land.

The Senate defeated the measure because of budget constraints.

The bank has kept the Gardens open as a tourist attraction. Mary Lee and Bob Tharp have been managers for the past three years.

"The National Register is the country's official list of historically significant properties and Arkansas can feel proud to have a large and growing representation of these tangible links to our past," Grunewald said in his letter.

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