LITTLE ROCK–Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. French Hill, Sec. Stacy Hurst of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and Philanthropy Director Jennifer Barnhouse of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas were on hand today at a ceremony to commemorate the completion of the Blue Mountain Natural Area trailhead. The completion of the trailhead adjacent to the parking lot marks a key milestone in the overall effort to connect trails throughout the Maumelle Pinnacles region in Pulaski County.
Blue Mountain Natural Area was acquired in 2021 by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, an agency of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, with $4 million in state and federal funding and a contribution of $1 million from The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. Blue Mountain is the westernmost mountain in the Maumelle Pinnacles chain, which includes central Arkansas’s beloved Pinnacle Mountain and Rattlesnake Ridge.
The natural area conserves the globally rare grassland habitat Ouachita Sandstone Outcrop Barrens, as well as rare species such as Wright’s cliffbrake, a western desert fern. The area, which is slated to open to public access in spring 2023, features several miles of trails for low-impact immersion.
“Advancements in outdoor recreation infrastructure is one of the key successes of my administration,” Hutchinson said. “Blue Mountain Natural Area is a project that is important to the quality of life here in central Arkansas, and I am proud that it will provide protection for rare species and access to recreational opportunities for generations to come.”
The addition of Blue Mountain to Arkansas’s System of Natural Areas completed a 12,000-acre conservation and recreation corridor, which includes properties owned or managed by Pulaski County, Arkansas State Parks, Central Arkansas Water, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.
“The completion of the Maumelle Pinnacles trail system at Blue Mountain Natural Area will further drive outdoor recreation in this region,” Hurst said. “It is yet one more outdoor amenity that makes central Arkansas an attractive place to live, work and play.”
One of 79 natural areas in the System of Natural Areas, Blue Mountain Natural Area was recognized by early naturalists, including the botanist Thomas Nuttall, who is credited with the popularity of the name “pinnacles” and sketched the chain in his “A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory during the Year 1819.” Made up of nearly 74,000 acres, the statewide System of Natural Areas are lands managed specifically to preserve, protect and sometimes restore vital habitat for plants and animals that represent the natural heritage of all Arkansans.
“Because supporters of the Nature Conservancy’s response to our request to protect Blue Mountain was so quick and so generous, we add to the natural areas in the state’s urban center, a rarity, with easy accessibility by so many,” Barnhouse said. “Blue Mountain is proof of a wonderfully collaborative conservation community in Arkansas that gets things done. We look forward to welcoming the public in spring 2023.”