BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Ouachita ATV Club is the recipient of a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant totaling $224,700. The grant is administered in Arkansas by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) for the purpose of constructing and/or maintaining motorized and non-motorized recreational trails and trail support facilities.
The Ouachita ATV Club has worked tirelessly to protect the accessibility of the trail system that, according to an economic impact study conducted by UALR, is responsible for generating millions annually for the Mena/Polk County area.
Pam Ferguson, secretary for the club, said that the club has received multiple grants but this is by far the largest. She said the grant will enable the construction of a pavilion at the North Trailhead of Wolf Pen Gap at a budgeted cost of $25,000 with the remainder to relocate or construct new trails. Ferguson explained that the existing trails were not constructed for maximum sustainability for OHVs. Trails Unlimited, an enterprise unit of the U.S. Forest Service, has already flagged the locations and after a bidding process, construction is projected to begin in November or December, but could be delayed because of an objection filed against the most recent Environmental Assessment released by the U.S. Forest Service.
Since the inception of this federal grant program in 1993, approximately 233 trails have been completed in 70 of the 75 counties of the State resulting in $13.7 million being invested in the Arkansas Recreational Program.
Project sponsors apply for program funds through a competitive process with the applications being reviewed by the Arkansas Recreational Trails Advisory Committee (ARTAC). ARTAC consists of ten members, nine of who are appointed by the Governor representing various types of trail users. Successful applicants must submit plans and specifications for the project, provide proof of ownership of the property on which the trail lies, obtain all necessary environmental clearances and permits, and enter into a contract with AHTD.
“This is huge for the Mena/Polk County area,” said Ferguson referring to the grant. The Ouachita ATV Club is a recognized 501c3 that remains committed to preserving accessibility to Wolf Pen Gap that has become one of the largest economic drivers in the region.