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November 17, 2017
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Commission, residents meet on wildlife management issues

By Haley Smith
This article was published September 19, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

Thirty-two people gathered at the Strong High School library Monday to discuss the Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area.

Representatives from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission held a public meeting to discuss concerns that were brought to a Felsenthal Town Council meeting by frequent users of the area.

The meeting Monday was meant as a way to clear up misunderstandings between the commission and people who frequently use the area for hunting and fishing, as well as a way for area residents to make suggestions on how the commission can improve the area.

The biggest topic for the room was the Clear Lake Road, a road constructed by the commission to replace the ATV trails.

Susan Nimmo, a representative of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the area had a really wet year, leaving some parts of the area vulnerable to rutting. By the time the road was closed, the ruts in the roads were measuring anywhere from 6 inches all the way up to 18 inches deep in some spots, she said.

On top of the rutting problem, after the flood season, she said, several trees fell, which had to be fixed as well.

The area recently has started to dry enough for the commission to begin repairs, she said. The road has been re-opened for ATV use and they plan to open it up to vehicles as soon as repairs are complete and the road is fully dry, Nimmo said.

At the town council meeting Aug. 10, several residents said they thought the ATV trails would be left as they were, but the trails were closed not long after the roads were opened. At the time, Keith Stephens, chief of communications for the commission, said it had always been planned that the trails would be closed once the access road was complete to prevent damage to the area.

The issue was brought up again before the event Monday, and Nimmo said the trails were hard to maintain for the commission, adding that they were rutted to the point where there were safety concerns for trail users. She said the trails also had started to “spiderweb,” meaning new trails were forming from where people went around rutted area, which only caused new ruts to form, taking a toll on the area.

Residents spoke at length about the issue of the trails, but commission representatives said there was little chance of the trails being re-opened.

Another concern for residents was the lack of handicap accessibility to the land on the west side of the Ouachita River.

Area residents said they thought Clear Lake Road was the only place for ATVs or any vehicle to drive, limiting access to other parts of the wildlife management area. But Nimmo said an ATV could be used up to 300 feet off the road to help access other parts of the area, as long as the driver has a mobility-impaired access permit issued by the commission.

Nimmo said all comments, concerns and suggestions would be taken to the full commission and representatives would do their best to keep residents informed on the progress in the area. Anyone with additional questions or concerns can contact the South Central Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Office in Camden at 870-836-4612.

Haley Smith can be reached at 870-862-6611 or at hsmith@eldoradonews.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @hsmithEDNT.

CORRECTION

This story has been edited to correct how much a person can drive an ATV off of Clear Lake Road and to specify that the driver can only do so if they have a mobility-impaired access permit issued by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

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