Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) has received a $35,230 grant from the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department (AHTD) to construct three additional shelters along the Ouachita Trail.
According to Robert Cavanaugh, the funding will come from the Recreational Trails Program and is under sponsorship of the AHTD.
Completion of the next three shelters will complete a project that began in the 1990s when the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) built nine shelters on the eastern part of the trail, Cavanaugh said. “They planned to build a shelter about every 10 miles,” he stated “but ran out of money before they could complete the project.”
“Later,” Cavanaugh said, “FoOT took over the project and began completion of 12 additional shelters.” Four of the shelters are located in Oklahoma, while the other eight are sited in Arkansas.
Total construction time by the volunteers normally takes 3.5 days, he added. The last shelter project was completed in three days.
Locations for the remaining three shelters will be at Turner Gap (mile 80), Suck Mountain (mile 109) and Story Creek (mile 116.6). FoOT volunteers hope to have the final three shelters complete by mid October.
When the actual beginning dates are finalized, an appeal for volunteer workers will be made, according to Cavanaugh.
The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is about 223 miles long and stretches from near Little Rock on the eastern end to Talihina, OK on the western side. Part of the trail (108miles) was recently designated by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) as an Epic trail and is being nationally promoted to help stimulate mountain bike tourism in the area.
The part of the trail so designated begins at the Oklahoma/Arkansas border and runs east to Arkansas Highway 7. The other two Epic trails in Montgomery County include parts of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) and the Womble Trail.
Cavanaugh stated that mountain bike tourism, along with hiking already being utilized along the trails has potential to lengthen the tourist season in the area, thereby bringing additional people and revenue to local communities.
Presently, the Mount Ida/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce is in the process of developing additional interest in mountain bike tourism and has created a Facebook page to promote the activity. Information will be available on the chamber’s facebook page (Mountain Bike Tourism in Montgomery County as well as
“We have the trails and we are working to make them even better to encourage more people to experience the outdoors locally,” Cavanaugh stated.