National Forest Service:
No overnight camping allowed in flood zone
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A virtual workshop was held Tuesday, Nov. 10 by the National Forest to gain input from the public on what the future development of Albert Pike Recreation Area might look like.
During the night of June 10–11, 2010 a flash flood along Little Missouri River killed 20 people in the campgrounds of the Albert Pike Recreation Area. In a matter of less than four hours water rose from three feet to over twenty-three feet. Since that time the U.S. Forest Service has closed the site for further evaluation.
The park has been closed to overnight camping since June 2010.
In the aftermath of the flood, 11 lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana against the government and eventually were consolidated into one action.
In July 2018, the Federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the civil lawsuit, both judges noted the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute protects the government from liability for the deaths.
The Forest Service proposes to make changes in the long-term management and use of the Albert Pike Recreation Area, located on the Little Missouri River in the Ouachita National Forest.
Officials said they are limited in how the area can be developed, because no overnight use is permitted in the 100 year flood zone and they are focused on how to adapt the area for day use.
Information gathered during this workshop will be considered during the development of the proposed action.
For more information or to ask questions, visit the forest’s website at fs.usda.gov/ouachita.
Officials with the National Forest Service said they understand how important Albert Pike is, and they desire to make the best decisions for the grounds based on science and to prevent future tragedies.
An environmental analysis will occur in the summer of 2021 and officials said many opportunities for collaboration and questions will be offered during that time, including two 30 day public scoping periods, where comments will be considered for alternative analysis.
From Nov. 15- Dec 15, interested citizens are encouraged to respond to the proposed action and to suggest reasonable alternative to it.
Examples given during the meeting included:
“I would like to see more opportunities for day use, such as a picnic ring.
“The swim beach has virtually disappeared. I’d like to see it improved or enlarged.”
Officials repeatedly reminded commentators during the meeting that no overnight camping would be allowed in a developed area of a 100 year flood plane, of which a great portion of the Albert Pike Recreation Area rests.
However, suggestions to develop overnight camping inside the Albert Pike Recreation Area but outside of the flood zone were noted multiple times.
Also suggested by one commenter was to remove all developments and return the recreation area to a natural state.
Many comments about the debris, cleanliness, restrooms and infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, were made, as well as the possibility of cell phone coverage.
Because the National Forest Service is not a cellular provider, it is beyond its scope to bring the required infrastructure and service to the park. However, officials did say they are aware of efforts elsewhere to bring cellular service to areas that include the National Forest.
In response to questions about road maintenance, officials said it is something they try to do.
“We have a lot to keep up with, and they are not paved and can be in bad condition sometimes. After the events in 2010, a couple of things occurred. The forest closed the area down. At that time it was determined those areas would be shut down and not maintained and that might discourage folks from overnight use,” officials said.
“Being under litigation, we were working through the court system on that and because it has been resolved, we can now go through this process. We do need to maintain those roads.”
Officials said as redevelopment begins, there will be opportunities for volunteers to help remove debris and keep area clean.