First a Bit of Bad News
We have a lot of great recreational opportunities in Arkansas, unfortunately many of them are on federally managed land and during the government shutdown most of their facilities will not be open to the public. This means that many US Army Corps of Engineers Parks, National Parks (including the Buffalo National River), US Fish and Wildlife areas and US Forest Service Campgrounds are closed. Below are links to information from each of these services:
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- National Parks, US Fish and Wildlife and Department of Interior
- US Forest Service
Let’s Be Responsible
As users of these areas it’s important that we respect these closures and reduction of services. Although I feel that most of our readers understand the value of these special places and would not want to do anything that could hurt them, I worry that others may see this as an opportunity to wreak havoc on what they consider to be a lawless area. When these types of closures have happened in the past, the incidence of vandalism, graffiti, and other destruction of what is our public tax supported property has increased. As advocates, the last thing we need is for open public access to these areas to be viewed as a nuisance by those local land managers. Upset? We all are, but breaking the rules that local officials are tasked with enforcing will have zero effect on those who caused this mess and may cause land management to reconsider our access to those areas.
Without appropriations from Washington, local federal employees can’t be paid. As a result, those employees are placed on compulsory leave. A dedicated few are asked to continue to work, protecting vital operations, with only the promise of being paid after the dust has settled. It is an impossible task for such a small number of employees to do the essential tasks and to keep visitor services going too. It’s frustrating not to have access to these areas and we are already seeing how the shutdown is affecting events like the Springhill Classic Mountain Bike Race and the Arkansas Traveller 100 Ultrarun*, both scheduled on federal land this coming weekend. Of course the awesome race directors are working hard to make sure these events happen. Trust them, they are doing everything possible. Be patient and express your appreciation for their Herculean efforts for their hard work when you get a chance.
Now For The Good News
While the shutdown is affecting federal lands it has little to no effect on local public lands. Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Regional, County and City facilities are open for business. You can learn more about the difference between all these agencies here. So you can still go camping, fishing, cycling, and hiking in the Natural State. We still have plenty of outdoor places to visit.
*More info on the Arkansas Traveller 100 from the Race Director:
“With some additional developments that occurred today, we have learned that there is one aspect for this weekend that may not be as planned….
We were just informed that unless there is a break in the government shutdown, the campground at Lake Sylvia will not be open after all.
–So unfortunately we will have to prepare to make the best of things as they are.
For those planning to tent camp, we are actively working to find some area for tents to set up as close as possible to Camp Ouachita. We are working on shower availability also, but cannot guarantee anything at this time. If you happen to be teetering between tent camping and another option, it might be beneficial to proceed with the later. Final information on this will be given at the 2:00pm meeting on Friday.
We’re sorry, but car and RV campers will be harder to accommodate. In the past, some folks have parked along the highway on the side opposite Camp Ouachita, and this will be okay. However, level RV parking or hookups will not be available unless the campground is open.
We have compiled a list of the nearest RV parks, which as of today all have availability:
Coffee Creek Resort (dist: approx 8 miles) – 501-889-2745
Petit Jean State Park (dist: approx 27 miles) – 501-727-5441
KOA Campground, Morrilton (dist: approx. 25 miles) – 501-354-8262
Lewisburg Bay RV park, Morrilton (dist: aprox 20 miles) – 501-354-5601
If things in Washington are somehow worked out prior to Friday, we will communicate any changes in the camping situation and post an update on the website as expediently as possible. Otherwise, please assist us by planning accordingly—knowing that we are doing all we can given the circumstances.
Please pass this onto your volunteers so that they can plan accordingly.
We appreciate your understanding, we are truly trying our best to accommodate everyone!
Chrissy and Stan”