A vision to create a dozen shelters along the Ouachita National Recreational Trail will finally be fully realized as the Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) and the National Forest Service come together April 21 to dedicate the final shelter which was built on Suck Mountain.
the two organizations have been working together since 2004 to maintain the Ouachita Trail, which weaves its way through the Ouachita National Forest from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Highway 27 near Story, Arkansas.
The trail shelter project sought to construct 12 new shelter along 120 miles on the western end of the trail. They would join nine trails already in use along the trail.
Members of FoOT received the go ahead to proceed following the completion of the necessary reviews and studies. The first shelter, built just off Highway 71 on the Foran Gap Trailhead, was completed in March 2013.
The twelfth and final shelter was completed November 2016 on top of Suck Mountain.
Robert Cavanaugh, a Vice President of FoOT, stated that volunteers learned alot as they worked their way through the construction of 12 shelters. He explained that the first one took four and a half days to complete and by the time they finished the shelter on Suck Mountain they had shortened the construction time to two and a half days.
All the structures were built by volunteers and are available for use by anyone using the trail.
The structure on Suck Mountain is a covered open structure which offers a raised sleeping deck to keep hikers and mountain bikers off the ground while they rest. There is a picnic table and a fire pit equipped with a grill to cook meals on.
The Ouachita National Recreational Trail Shelter System Dedication will take place Friday, April 21 at the Suck Mountain Shelter.
Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. with a reception and refreshments from 10 – 10:30 a.m., followed by the shelter dedication program from 10:30 – 11 a.m.
Bo Lea, FoOT President will welcome everyone and give introductions. He will then offer a few remarks and make recognitions. Robert Cavanaugh, FoOT Vice President, will share information regarding grants used for the project and the Ouachita Trail’s Epic Trail Status given by the International Mountain Biking Association.
Norm Wagner, Ouachita National Forest Superintendent will give some remarks and then there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Shelters built through the project are: (listed in mile marker order)
Rock Garden – MM 9.4 (Completed November 2013)
Holson Valley Vista – MM 16.8 (Completed November 2013)
Winding Stairs – MM 25 (Completed April 2013)
Pashubbe – MM 34 (Completed June 2014)
Stateline – MM 46.4 (Completed October 2014)
Black Fork Mountain – MM 57.8 (Completed November 2015)
Foran Gap – MM 68.9 (Completed March 2013)
Turner Gap – MM 79.9 (Completed September 2016)
Brushy Creek – MM 90.6 (Completed May 2015)
Fiddler Creek – MM 100.9 (Completed March 2014)
Suck Mountain – MM 108.6 (Completed November 2016)
Story Creek – MM 116.7 (Completed October 2016)