MENA, Ark. – The final decision concerning off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and mixed use roads at Wolf Pen Gap near Mena was released today by the Ouachita National Forest.
Mena-Oden District Ranger, Tim Oosterhous, selected Alternative “I” as outlined in the Wolf Pen Gap Environmental Assessment.
“I am pleased this decision finds common ground to protect the forest while allowing continued use of nearly 40 of the 42 miles of trail during times of the year when it is most used by visitors,” said Oosterhous. “I greatly appreciate everyone’s participation in this process to come to a workable solution. Nobody got everything they wanted, but at the end of the day, we found a way to make it work and stay open for use.”
Currently 41.7 miles of roads and trails are available for OHV use at Wolf Pen Gap, either year- round or seasonally. Key components of Alternative I define a trail system with 39.6 miles of routes, including mixed use routes and seasonal designations. Designated routes will be open seasonally from the second Friday of March each year, through Oct. 31. Two holiday periods will open the trail system to OHV use: from three days prior to Thanksgiving through two days after Thanksgiving, and from Dec. 25 through Jan. 2.
Monitoring will be an important factor in protecting natural resources, particularly during rainy periods according to the Wet Weather Management Plan, an appendix to the Environmental Assessment. The monitoring will help determine if the amount of rainfall is enough to result in damage to the maintained trails, or in increased sedimentation in nearby tributaries. If so, a temporary closure of the trail, generally short-term, will occur.
In addition to changes made to road and trail designations, a number of other actions will occur within the next 5 years, including improvement of more than 269 stream crossings, construction of a foot trail to Hawk’s Gap overlook, installation of picnic tables at two vistas, construction of a pavilion at the North Trailhead, and obliteration and relocation of the “warm-up” trail at the West Trailhead parking lot.
For more information on Wolf Pen Gap call 479-394-2382, or stop by the Mena Ranger District Office, 1603 Highway 71 North, Mena, AR.
The Pulse will continue to follow this story with local reactions to the decision.