Preservation of state's oldest school begins

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

RANDOLPH COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - A cleanup took place Thursday in Randolph County when residents and former residents of the small town of Ravenden Springs came together to pick up litter from a historic site.

Down in the canyon sits the oldest known school in Arkansas, which is actually a cave.

According to the Randolph County Tourism Association, students would have gone to class in the cave beginning in 1817.

It was when Ravenden Springs had a lot more residents before the railroad was built about seven miles south of there.

The more than 30 acres that encompass the canyon has been donated to the Arkansas Department of Heritage so it can be properly preserved.

It is an idea that citizens said they have been pushing for around 30 years now.

"It's something I played in and my brothers and older family played in," Ravenden Springs resident Buddy Compton said. "We hunted and fished here. Back in the '80s, I brought my kids here and we ran up and down the canyon. And now my grandkids and great grandkids are going to get to enjoy exactly what I saw in 1950."

The final plans from the Department of Heritage are not known yet, but Mayor Johnny Cochran said they do plan to add a walkway to make it more accessible.

The organization will also knock down a concrete wall that was built by the county many years ago inside the school cave to bring it back closer to its original form.

Both Mayor Cochran and Compton said they hope this will attract more visitors to the scenic area.

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