Millwood Lake’s 50th Celebration

By Bryanna R. Poulin

ASHDOWN, Arkansas— As the sweet aroma of barbeque circulated the air and the selection of meats roasted in a nearby smoker about 200 distinguished guests, community members and employees gathered under a large white canopy at Millwood Overlook, Dec. 1, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Millwood Lake and Dam.

Located on the Little River, Millwood Lake has been a key unit in the general flood reduction system for the Red River below Lake Texoma. The project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1946 and modified by the Flood Control Act of 1958. It was designed by and built under the supervision of the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction of the dam began in 1961 and was completed for flood control operations in 1966 at a cost of $44 million. The project was dedicated Dec. 8, 1966.

Students from Ashford, Ark., say the Pledge of Allegiance during the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec., 1, 2016.

Students from Ashdown, Ark., say the Pledge of Allegiance during the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec., 1, 2016.

Following the opening remarks by Steve Spicer, Millwood-Tri Lakes Project Office, operations project manager, Little Rock District USACE, welcoming guest speakers and attendees and the singing of the National Anthem, the ceremony kicked off with the two local high school students reading their award winning essays.

“Millwood Lake has always been a part of my life. I have many memories of birthday parties, family reunions, fishing with grandmother and learning how to ride a bike,” Christie Sain, a senior from Ashdown High School with blond curly hair and wearing sparkly purple shirt said.  “Not many people can say they learned how to ride a bike in a park at Millwood.”

Even though Sain has many fond childhood memories of Millwood, her connection with the lake goes much deeper.

“Recreation is a way of life as a child and now,” she said.  “It doesn’t get any better than drinking tea and eating fish caught on the side of a river bank.”

Christie Sain, a senior from Ashdown High School reads her essay during the Millwood Lake and Dam 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1. Sain who grew up on Millwood Lake was awarded 1st place and received a $1000 college scholarship. Sain said she has many fond childhood memories of Millwood and that it doesn't get any better than drinking tea and eating fish caught on the side of Millwood river bank.

Christie Sain, a senior from Ashdown High School reads her essay during the Millwood Lake and Dam 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1. Sain who grew up on Millwood Lake was awarded 1st place and received a $1000 college scholarship. Sain said she has many fond childhood memories of Millwood and that it doesn’t get any better than drinking tea and eating fish caught on the side of Millwood river bank.

Once the high school senior finished her essay and before she could nervously make her way back to her seat, Denny Gray, president and board of directors for Southwest Arkansas Water District presented her with a $1000 college scholarship.

“What a wonderful essay Christie [Sain] and it’s my pleasure to present this to you,” Gray said handing Sain the scholarship.

Following Sains powerful essay, Ashdown High School Senior Jacob Purifoy walked upon the stage and read his essay to convey what Millwood Lake meant to him.

“I can always remember from childhood to just a few weeks ago, those mini trips across the river channels and campfires on the shores,” Purifoy said.  “The rows and rows of hydroponic trees with dozens of fishing swarming… that make great catching on cool, breezy fall evenings.”

Purifoy talked about his midsummer’s days, where daytime television was mediocre so he would call up a friend to sit on the pier, bait fishing and laughing for hours on end.

“We would go relax on that old lake facing swing set or hitting up the horseshoes,” he said.  “I do want to point out, the friend I’d call up, is my friend Christie.” [Sain]

Shortly after Purifoy finished his essay, he was presented with a $500 college scholarship from University of Arkansas for coming in 2nd place.

A couple from Ashford, Ark., enjoy the scenic overlook at Millwood Lake after attending the 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016. More than 200 people attended the event and were treated to a full spread of barbeque food, cake and punch and had the opportunity to meet Little Rock District Commander Col. Robert G. Dixon.

A couple from Ashdown, Ark., enjoy the scenic overlook at Millwood Lake after attending the 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016. More than 200 people attended the event and were treated to a full spread of barbeque food, cake and punch and had the opportunity to meet Little Rock District Commander Col. Robert G. Dixon.

After the essays were read and scholarships given, Col. Robert G. Dixon, commander, Little Rock District USACE gave his closing remarks with a brief history of the dam and the reason for the celebration.

“Now about a half a century ago, people like us stood up in front of podiums just like these and gave similar speeches,” Dixon said. “As they dedicated this project to the people of this region and began an era where the constant flooding that used to plague communities downstream of here…was no longer a threat.”

Dixon shared the accomplishment of building such a massive structure during a time where many people didn’t’ agree.

Colonel Robert G. Dixon, Commander of Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talks about the lakes history during his closing remarks at the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016.

Colonel Robert G. Dixon, Commander of Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talks about the lakes history during his closing remarks at the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016.

“Some of you might have been here in 1966 to hear some colonel from the Corps talk about the five years it took to build the dam and the obstacles they had to overcome,” Dixon said.  “These, of course were amazing feats. Constructing the longest earthen dam in Arkansas is no small task, and overcoming protests from three states and multiple citizens and businesses must have been difficult at best.”

Dixon talked about the struggles in the past and how building the dam was exciting for the town where the dam would eventually call home.

“You see, building the dam was exciting, newsworthy work,” Dixon said. “Watching this structure emerge from the ground and tame the Little River is a tribute to modern engineering and the fortitude of hundreds of workers.”

Colonel Robert G. Dixon, Commander of Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts memorabilia in a time capsule after the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016.

Colonel Robert G. Dixon, Commander of Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts memorabilia in a time capsule after the Millwood Lakes 50th anniversary celebration held Dec. 1, 2016.

Even though the construction of the dam was exciting, Dixon concluded the ceremony saying similar to the lake and dam, USACE employees were just as dedicated 50 years ago as they are now.

“Just as our structure quietly hold back millions of gallons water, our team of great folks are dedicated to quietly caring for it… the lake, its resources and this community” Dixon said thankfully. “Millwood Dam has stood strong for the past five decades and I am reassured by the dedication and professionalism of our team and the constant support of this great community, it will certainly stand for another five decades or more.”

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