Greg Smith: A Legacy of Trails

Greg Smith was a visionary and a trailblazer. Long before trails became cool and political, Greg Smith had a passion for the beautification of Fort Smith. The Ruth Armstrong trail next to Creekmore Park, the Old Railroad Trail and the Greg Smith Trail along Riverfront Road are all a legacy to Greg Smith and his non-profit, Parks Partners.

Anyone who met Greg had the chance to make a genuine friend. For those of us lucky enough to become his friend, it was our good fortune. Greg was a bear of a man, in his presence and his persona. Being friends with him earned you a place in his heart, which meant you could count on him for anything asked.

Our twins, Seth and Ali, were the same age as Greg and Sue’s triplets, Brad, Seth, and Ross. As parents of teenagers, we were drawn together by their activities, which included United Methodist Youth (UMY) at First United Methodist Church. Through UMY we were connected to Dwight Curry who was, at that time, Youth Minister. I think Sue and Judi would agree that Dwight had as much influence raising our teens as we did as parents. Our bond was even tighter in that, aside from raising teenagers together, we were not only friends and neighbors, but Greg and I enjoyed a professional relationship as well.

Greg was our business legal counsel for almost twenty years. He guided us from a one-man ad agency to a booming marketing firm in Fort Smith and the region. The legal advice was always solid, often giving me the “Greg look” with his head slightly tilted down and with his eyes locked on mine to drive a point home. It didn’t take long to realize that was when he meant business and we would move on to the next topic. I’m sure his children have fond memories of “the look.”

Named to honor my dear friend, The Greg Smith Trail has become a legacy to a man who loved the outdoors and loved his native city. The Greg Smith trail ends where the Rice Cardin Levee Trail begins to provide nearly 6 miles of paved trail. Riverfront Drive is the connector to two landmark city Parks; Harry G. Kelly Park, under the Fred Patton Bridge leading to Oklahoma and Fort Smith Park on the river just a short distance from the Midland bridge going into Van Buren.

Blue Heron
Retired Fort Smith art teacher, Anne Edmondson, and her husband Dr. Steve Edmondson were part of Greg’s long-time circle of friends. Over the years, Greg’s yard became home to several pieces of Anne’s metal sculptures.

Anne remembers Greg and his passion for trailblazing with fondness, “I took one of my class of ‘at risk’ students to meet up with Greg one day. He was clearing a trail over by Rogers and Free Ferry. The students and I spent the day working alongside him.”

Funded by the privately held foundation, Dream Alliance, Downtown 64.6 was able to commision a sculpture from Anne. Her Blue Herson found a home in the small park just on the other side of the footbridge that crosses May Branch, about 2 miles from the trail
head in Kelly Park.

“This work was personal for me,” explains Anne. “It not only honors our good friend Greg, but also members of his family. At the base of the sculpted reeds are the clearly discernable upward reaching family hands.

Blue Heron sculpture Greg Smith Trail Fort Smith, AR
‘Blue Heron’ graces the park at the footbridge crossing May Branch near the trail’s end.

Wind Song II

Bryan Massey is an Art Professor at the University of Central Arkansas, Conway. I met Bryan by way of introduction from Don Lee, retired WindGate Gallery Director and UAFS Art Professor. Through that introduction, we were able to obtain ‘Wind Song II’ which is installed within a short walk of the Greg Smith trailhead.

Our heavy steel fabricated red ‘Wind Song II’ rises 8 ft. from its base. Its chime is deep and resounding. Massey attributes most of his inspiration as scriptural. However, ‘Wind Song II’ is entirely personal.

“I’ve created ‘Wind Song’ many times. Each creation is a tribute to my mother’s love of wind chimes. I honor her through these pieces of art.”

In 2012 the University of Arkansas dedicated the Silas Herbert Hunt Memorial honoring World War II veteran Silas Hunt, the first black student to enroll at the university’s law school. The sculpture is installed on the Fayetteville campus between Old Main and the Phi Beta Phi Centennial Gate. Massey’s works have been installed at the Riverfront Park in Little Rock, at the Russellville Center for the Arts, and other regional cultural centers. His work has been exhibited in local, national, and international galleries

Wind Song II
Wind Song II sculpted by Bryan Massey

Halite, Quartz, and Bauxite

Our latest installation took place Sunday, August 26th. Halite, Quartz, and Bauxite is a metal sculpture created by collaborating artists Alex Cogbill and Paul Siebenthal. Alex grew up in Fort Smith, graduated the University of Arkansas school of art and now lives in Fayetteville where he teaches at the University, gives private lessons and curates for his own gallery, Local Color.

When 64.6 approached Alex to create a piece for the Greg Smith Trail, he called in his friend Paul Siebenthal to collaborate. A California native, Paul holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Notre Dame. He is a professional artist specializing in metal sculpting. He has a passion for creating art that blends the elements of geometric form found in nature.

Paul describes their inspiration for the art, “Halite, Quartz, and Bauxite is a representational sculpture of minerals found locally in NW Arkansas. The piece reminds viewers of the natural beauty that exists in nature, outside their everyday experiences. Just below the ground are untold wonders. At the microscopic scale, there are amazing forms. Sounds create shapes. Geometry reappears as evidence of the structures inherent in physics. The natural world is full of magic that we rarely observe.”

Without even realizing it, most of us come in contact with each of these minerals on a daily basis – sodium chloride found in table salt, aluminum (from bauxite), and silica which you’ll see as a food additive or in little white packets in over the counter meds or other packaged goods. It’s an anti-caking agent used to prevent clumping. It is also an essential mineral necessary for our bodies to maintain good health.

Halite Quartz and Bauxite
Halite Quartz and Bauxite sulpture by Alex Cogbill and Paul Seibenthal

Be a Trailblazer

Our children are now grown with families of their own. Dwight Curry has long since retired as Youth Minister at United Methodist, though our friendship has endured the passing of time. It is through my friendship with Dwight that Downtown 64.6 has formed a relationship with the privately funded Dream Alliance. This organization has been extraordinarily generous in its contributions to funding public art along the Greg Smith Trail.

It’s leadership like Greg Smith’s that changes our city. To have a passion for something that enhances the quality of life for others is a treasured gift. It is projects like this, the blend of financial resources between the public and private sectors, that are moving our city forward. There is room at the table for everybody. In today’s creative economy it isn’t about “they.” Our city is a “we” project. We each have the power to move this city forward to create the legacy we want for generations to come. We each, in our own individual ways, become trailblazers.. .