Forest Recreation Streamlined to Ensure Sustainability

Release Date: Oct 4, 2021

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark – October 4, 2021— Visitors to Alum Cove, Bayou Bluff, and Haw Creek Falls recreation areas on the Big Piney Ranger District on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will soon see proposed management changes implemented.

Safely and successfully maintaining the sustainability of recreation areas is a priority of the Forests. “We understand these recreation areas are cherished by many. Through community interest, partners, and volunteers we can modify services, allow the campers and visitors to take more responsibility by hauling home their trash and allow these areas to be available year-round,” said Tim Jones, District Ranger for the Big Piney Ranger District.

While some amenities at Bayou Bluff, Haw Creek Falls and Alum Cove will be reduced, continuing efforts are being made to create more sustainable recreation opportunities on the Forest. Creating a shared vision of continued operations in these areas with the community and partner groups has provided an avenue for these sites to remain operational, but as trends in visitor use shifts, amenities provided must be evaluated to ensure cost-effectiveness, public safety, and year-round user access.

As a result of a multi-year environmental assessment process, which included public and partner input, the Big Piney Ranger District announces the following changes:

  • Bayou Bluff—Located on Hwy 27 north of Hector, Ark., this recreation area is being converted to a Point of Interest and is suspending fees and eliminating seasonal closures. Upper loop camping, which has been closed for several years following a storm event, will be eliminated altogether; the lower level will be managed as a point of interest where camping and day use will still be allowed. Use of the vault toilet, large pavilion, three shelters, and a small pavilion will remain, and the pavilions would be managed on a first-come, first-served basis. Trash services will be managed by visitors as “pack-it-in, pack-it-out,” and Leave No Trace ethics will be posted on information kiosks. Active partner groups and volunteers are helping extend the life of current amenities, excluding trash services.
  • Haw Creek Falls—Located on Hwy 123, this newly designated Point of Interest will be accessible year-round. Removal of the gate across the low-water bridge and suspension of fees will be immediately implemented, and camping will still be allowed in designated campsites. A slow transition of amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and lantern posts will be removed over time as they become unusable or unsafe. Trash services will be managed by the user as “pack it in, pack it out.” Active partner groups and volunteers are helping extend the life of current amenities, excluding trash services. Several volunteer workdays have been hosted at this site in the last several months, which have proven to be immensely beneficial to keeping this primitive area operational. Please note, this area is subject to flash flooding and visitors are responsible for monitoring conditions and taking precautionary measures. Removal of the gate does not indicate the area is always safe during changing weather conditions.
  • Alum Cove National Scenic Trail—Three miles north of Deer, Ark., this recreation area is being converted to a trailhead only. Trash services will be managed by the user as “pack it in, pack it out.” The pavilion, parking area, trail with benches, and vault toilet will remain open and accessible on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Working with and listening to the public and partners through this process for several years has allowed the Big Piney Ranger District to streamline services and incorporate year-round access, which is a goal of both the Forests and the Agency,” added Jones. “Although there are fewer amenities available, responsible use, Leave No Trace ethics, and help from our volunteers and visitors will ensure the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are able to continue offering meaningful recreation opportunities for generations to come.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or partnering with the Forest Service is encouraged to call the Big Piney Ranger District at 479-518-0411. For more information on Leave No Trace ethics, visit www.lnt.org.