Interesting debate going on over in Hot Springs. The city, the National Park Service and a consulting firm are discussing the huge tunnel that runs under Central Avenue through the heart of the city — the tunnel that couldn’t handle the floodwaters iof 1990 that devastated the downtown area, including some of the bathhouses in the National Park. Hot Springs Creek, which drains the excess thermal waters as well as drainage from the mountains that bracket the downtown area, flows through the tunnel and emerges south of the downtown area.

The Park Hotel, which sits across Fountain Street from the National Park at the north end of Bathhouse Row, has inquired about the possibility of obtaining the famed thermal waters for use in bathing at the hotel. This would require running a pipe through the huge tunnel, which the consulting firm says would increase the chance of another devastating downtown flood.

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The park’s superintendent, Josie Fernandez, is quoted by The Sentinel-Record as wondering why the tunnel couldn’t be opened up by tearing up Central Avenue and replacing it with a grate that would open up Hot Springs Creek (which flows through the tunnel). One of her reasons is that this would be “more natural.”

An excerpt from The Sentinel-Record follows on the jump.

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