(Editor's Note: Each year, Arkansas Business partners with the Arkansas Municipal League to present the Trendsetter City awards, which recognize exceptional initiatives underway in municipalities across the state. Large, medium and small-sized cities were honored in six categories: Diversity and Inclusion; Education/Workforce Development; Infrastructure and Water; Public Works/Environmental and Green Management; Technology and Security; and Tourism Development/Creative Culture. Below is one winner's story. For more, click here.)
Diversity and Inclusion
Winner • Under 5,000
Mayor: Butch Berry
Stairway to Inclusivity
Eureka Springs expresses its diversity with physical features like the Rainbow Stairs, one of the most photographed locations in Arkansas, which represents a collaboration between high school art club students and a master muralist.
While diversity and inclusion have long been part of Eureka Springs’ DNA, the city received pushback and faced controversy after becoming Arkansas’ first town to offer domestic partnerships, and, in 2015, voted overwhelmingly for a non-discrimination ordinance. National and international filmmakers spotlighted the city and documented its conflicts with well-funded opponents to fight racism, bigotry, bullying, religious extremism, antisemitism and homophobia. Eureka Springs, it is noted, is able to have a Jesus parade one weekend and a drag queen parade the next in its ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts.
Eureka Springs attracts more than 1.3 million visitors a year and in 2021 was named by Forbes as the No. 4 most welcoming city in the U.S.
While there is no permanent solution to bigotry, Eureka Springs promotes diversity and inclusion with an eclectic range of programs, events and initiatives. Its “Partners in Diversity” program engages local businesses, nonprofits, churches, financial institutions and the public. The city launched the state’s first Human Rights Film & Art Festival, has long held three Diversity Weekends a year, has a comprehensive ADA Compliance Manual and works to make facilities as ADA compliant as possible, despite its entire downtown being listed on the National Register of Historic Places - with National Significance.