Residents react to TruTV's "Rowdy River"

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

HARDY, AR (KAIT) – Residents of Hardy and along the Spring River had mixed opinions over a cable television program which depicted partying on Memorial Day weekend last year. TruTV followed officers with Arkansas Game & Fish as they patrolled the river. The program, which aired Wednesday night, showcased party goers who broke the law by possessing marijuana and underage drinking.

"It's a good tourist. That's big money. You know, that helps our economy great," said Bob Gilliland, city council member. "We're the only town around that's got a river right in the middle of it and we really like to take advantage of it."

Most of the footage was shot between Mammoth Spring and Hardy along the nine-mile river. Officers were in plain uniform and undercover.

"I really thought that they were trying to make it worse than what it really is. To me it's just our new generation, you know, I've got kids that are that age. You know, our generation was a lot different than my mother's generation and we're just going with the times," said Gilliland. "If they're not hurting themselves and they may get a little bit belligerent and drunk but tell me where they don't."

Gilliland said he welcomes any kind of publicity to Sharp County, but Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton said she'd like to see the river cleaned up.

"I had a different impression of it from the beginning. I thought it was going to be a Girls Gone Wild and it wasn't. My impression of it was that we have police officers that are on duty and if you come to Hardy Arkansas and you break the law, then you're going to be dealt with," said Thornton. "We're looking toward the church groups, the youth groups, girl scouts boy scouts, youth groups and if you were a Girl Scout troop and your family was running you down the river and there was nudity on the bank, would you bring them back?"

Region 8 News talked to several residents of Hardy who wished not to be filmed. Some said they welcomed the publicity because it highlights a problem the river has had for years. Others said the program will increase the number of teenagers and young adults who look to break the law.

"You saw that a lot of it was girls in bikinis. You see that at every beach. The guys in swim suits, you see that at every beach. You see that everywhere you go where there's water sports or whatever, you just don't see underage drinking everywhere," said Thornton.

"They feel like they're isolated, they're not really in the public but what they don't understand is that is a public place," said Ernie Rose, Hardy Police Chief. "When you get a canoe and go down through the river, you're liable to go through those areas where that kind of activity is going on."

"I was worried that it was only going to show only the bad stuff and the police officers not doing their job but the game and fish and all of the officers did their jobs," said Thornton. "I think they'll come because of this show and I think they'll come and they'll use their brains a little bit."

"They realize that we don't tolerate it and we don't have the facilities where they want to be isolated in," said Rose. "It'll bring some people in here that we probably don't want here because they got the wrong idea that that's what this river is."

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