Thursday, September 1, 2011

Leave No Trace in Central Arkansas

In 1982, the longtime director of the Little Rock, Arkansas Parks and Recreation Department, Julius Breckling, mentioned the concept of a trail of parks alongside the Arkansas River. His vision was to link a chain of parks together along the river. Breckling noted that, “This is a long-term project, probably 10 years before we really start developing it.” Now, almost 30 years later, a “trail of parks” along the river is nearing completion.

The Arkansas River Trail is located in Pulaski County in central Arkansas, and runs through both Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Trail parallels the river, stretching from the Clinton Presidential Library west through the Bill Clark Wetlands and Riverfront Park, as well as seven more parks before ending at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The Trail is designed to accommodate a variety of recreational use – biking, hiking, running, dog walking, angling, birding, etc.

Trail managers, partners and various user groups contacted the Center in late 2010 to inquire about developing a site-specific, locally tailored Leave No Trace education program for the river trail. After a number of initial discussions, staff from the Center traveled to Arkansas to meet with members of the trail management partnership. Upon completion of this meeting, the partners enlisted the services of the Center in order to start developing a Leave No Trace educational program to meet the trail’s specific needs.

The majority of the region’s population lives in or near urban and suburban areas, and most residents in these areas recreate close to home – in areas considered frontcountry. Frontcountry is defined as outdoor areas that are easily accessible by car and mostly visited by day users. These urban and suburban populations seek quality and easily accessible recreational experiences. Recreation-related impacts (e.g. user conflict, off-trail travel, litter, spread of invasive species, vandalism, pet waste, etc.) must be effectively managed in order to provide quality recreational opportunities now and in the future.

In order to effectively manage recreation-related impacts along the river trail, the Center has already provided many of the following fee-based services in central Arkansas:

• Initial consultation to assess the management concerns of the respective area
• Assessment of current educational initiatives with respect to Leave No Trace practices
• Use of applicable language and graphics from existing Leave No Trace Frontcountry projects
• Development of language and graphics to address other local concerns
• Synchronization of all content for a coherent, integrated educational program
• Consultation on program implementation
• Assessment tools to help quantify the success of the program

Thanks to a strong group of managers and supporters, implementation of the Leave No Trace program along the river trail is quickly taking shape. The intention is to have a trailwide rollout of the education program to ensure consistent outreach to trail users. Center staff will continue to consult with the river trail partnership over the coming months in order to create and implement a robust Leave No Trace educational program that will help protect this wonderful shared resource in central Arkansas.

If you are interested in learning more about Leave No Trace Frontcountry Program develpment or would like to implement a similar education program in your area, please contact Ben Lawhon:

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