Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD) is a multicounty regional economic organization established in 1966 to assist western Arkansas communities, mostly within rural areas, with the planning for and development of local and regional projects. It is one of 8 statewide planning and development districts in Arkansas established through the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965. Each district covers 6 to 12 Arkansas counties with common economic problems and opportunities. In addition to assessing the potential for economic development for the area, the districts are the means by which the counties interact with state and federal economic development offices.
WAPDD serves the western Arkansas six county area of Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Polk, Scott, and Sebastian. We assist Western Arkansas communities with planning and developing local and regional programs and projects. WAPDD’s assistance to communities is centered on building a better quality of life for area residents through community and economic development. Working closely with city and county governments, WAPDD offers an array of technical assistance and management services. These relate to community and economic development, census information and population data, 911 mapping and addressing, utilities mapping, geographic information system services, work force development, and transportation planning.
Within these 6 counties are both north-south and east-west transportation networks to support industrialization, manufacturing, and tourism growth. Interstate 40, a major east-west corridor that spans across the United States, cuts through Franklin and Crawford counties. U.S. Route 71 crosses through Polk, Scott, Sebastian, and Crawford counties on its way from Louisiana to Canada. The future Interstate 49 is planned to roughly follow the U.S. Route 71 alignment. The northern part of the district boasts the Boston Mountains and the Ozark National Forest, while the southern part of the district is home to the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest and the Arkansas River Valley runs through the central part of the district between the two mountain
Western Arkansas has a rich history in coal mining and timber production. Franklin County is the site of one of the first oil strikes in Arkansas. Franklin County also has many wineries, the Cherokee Prairie, and a vast array of Ozark Highland Trails. Logan County is home to some of the oldest settlements in western Arkansas as well as the Mount Magazine State Park which is located on the highest elevation in Arkansas at 2,760 feet. The Crawford County Courthouse which is listed on the National Historic Register is thought to be the oldest active county courthouse west of the Mississippi River. Crawford County also has the historic King Opera House and many sites of historic preservation in downtown Van Buren. Polk County contains 225,000 acres of the Ouachita National Forest and since the Ouachita Mountains run east and west, their south facing and north facing slopes have very different flora and fauna. Scott County also has the Ouachita National Forest as a major natural attraction as well as Lake Hinkle which is a 960 acre lake. Sebastian County is home to two National Guard Bases: Fort Chaffee, a former U.S. Army base, transferred command to the Arkansas National Guard in 1997 with portions turned over to the state for redevelopment, including commercial and industrial and the Ebbing Air National Guard Base houses the 188th Fighter Wing. Fort Smith remains a regional manufacturing center as well as a national transportation hub.