Tuesday, November 27, 2018

You Have An Urgent Call: Take This 10-Minute Survey

There is significant momentum for the development of more bike/pedestrian infrastructure in central Arkansas. The entities, governmental and others, need information from potential users and the users of current facilities in order to shape their proposals and determine the level of community support for such.


The City of Morrilton, the head ranger at Petit Jean, Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism, Metroplan, a couple local cyclists, and the Department of Geography at UCA are the organizers.  UCA is running the survey.

It took me right at 10-minutes to complete the survey. It needs to be completed by the end of the month. Please feel free to share it within your contacts, as more participation is a positive thing.

Follow this  link to the survey.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Southwest Trail Update

There are many trail projects at some stage of development in the State of Arkansas, but perhaps none have more potential than the proposed Southwest Trail. The trail will connect the Little Rock Central High School Historic Site with Hot Springs National Park, and will appeal to hikers, cyclists, birders, and just about anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The preliminary engineering and environmental study began in April of 2018 and should be complete by fall of 2019. It was funded by the three counties involved and by a federal transportation grant . The contract for the study was awarded to Garver, the North Little Rock based regional engineering firm.

Last week, public information meetings were held in each of the three counties through which the Southwest Trail will pass, Garland, Saline, and Pulaski. The purpose of the meetings was to inform the public of the proposed route, along with alternatives, and to seek comments and concerns from those along the routes. The meetings were each held from 4:00 to 7:00PM and were of an open house style. There was a 5-minute PowerPoint presentation that gave a broad overview of project, and large scale photographic maps were laid out on a number of tables. In addition, several members of the Garver team were on hand and available to address specific questions using laptop computers with detailed maps and more detailed information.


Dan Lysk getting a word from Lynn Bell of Metroplan. Jon Hetzel of Garver looks on as participants check out the proposed routes. 

I attended the Pulaski County meeting, which was the last of the three. I took the opportunity to speak with Jon Hetzel, communications manager for Garver, and to ask him about the feedback he had received thus far in the process. Jon stated that most of the attendees at the Garland and Pulaski County meetings were potential trail users, while the Saline County event drew a larger number of land owners concerned about the potential impact of the trail on their property. I had heard that there was some significant pushback at that meeting but Jon didn't see it that way. "People got a mailed notice of a meeting about a trail right-of-way that might cross their land so they were understandably concerned." 
The intent of the routing is to minimize negative impact on the environment and on private landowners so it will largely follow existing right-of-ways. Hetzel said most seemed satisfied when they saw the plans. Of course, there will be more direct discussions as the plans become more firm, and, as with any large scale project, funding for engineering, land acquisition, and construction will be key. This is a years long project that will have multiple phases but it got a good start when the three counties approved the initial funding for the environmental plan.  

 A Garver representative discusses the plans with the aid of large scale, detailed maps.

 I showed up as the meeting opened at 4 o'clock and there were already a number of interested people on hand.
The maps of were laid out in a linear manner and divided by county, making it easy to locate specific points. 
The maps and supporting documents are available from ARDOT

The Southwest Trail will build on out state's already impressive portfolio of cycling and trail resources. One needs only to look north to the Katy Trail in Missouri to see how a point-to-point route for cyclists and hikers can become a regional magnet for tourists. Local economies all along such route benefit as BNB's, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other retailers grow their businesses on the influx of new visitors. The proximity to the Arkansas River Trail, the new Northwoods Mountain Bike Trail, the Iron Mountain Bike Trails at Arkadelphia, and the proposed Big Rock Bike Park in North Little Rock would make central Arkansas a destination for cyclists of many disciplines.

 This kind of growth is good for our economy, good for our image, and good for the health of the citizens of a state where 35.9% of adults are obese. For our youth to have a chance to break this cycle, we need to continue to provide more opportunities for healthy activities. My personal experience is that better nutrition follows regular exercise. Put that fast food burger down and give peas a chance. 
I don't sell anything or don't have a clue on how to collect data.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Back To Camp Robinson-Getting A New Pass, Upcoming Closures and More.

A Rite Of Fall

I'm primarily a road rider. I enjoy mountain biking mostly as a chance to get out of the cold wind in the woods and to let my trail dogs enjoy the freedom of running unfettered for miles. Camp Robinson is my preferred locale for doing that--it is just a few minutes from the house and is a perfect place for Willie and Ivy to do their thing. I also prefer to get out on the dirt after most of the snakes, ticks, and chiggers have hunkered down for the winter.

There were a few puddles after recent rains but the upper trails are hard packed and hold up well. The pups like to cool their paws when they get a chance. 

There are about 40 miles of well maintained single track in TA 2, the mountain bike area. Frequent community work days complemented by the regular efforts of folks like Basil Hicks, Jr and 3, and Scott and Sharon Saunders mean that the trails at Camp Robinson are always in top shape. 

The leaves are falling fast but there is still plenty of color and the trails are still clearly visible. 

There seems to be an annual debate as to how much leaf clearing is appropriate. I come in somewhere in the middle on this discussion. The most frequently ridden trails may benefit from some protection afforded by fallen leaves, while trails like Merlin's and Shipwreck can be rendered invisible when buried under the thick cover. I've found myself off trail on more than one occasion and rocks and roots can become hidden mines. That said, this is a quiet debate that resolves itself.

Trail Dog Training

I've been asked several times how I trained the pups to be such good trail dogs. I can't take any credit. Willie and Ivy, like their predecessors Zuli and Josie, take to the trail naturally. They go where I go, whether that be hiking or riding, and they love having the freedom to run, something I can't afford them on leash. The dogs seem to instinctively want to take the lead and I take great pleasure in being able to witness their sheer joy of running.

 Willie and Ivy always lead the way. I do my best to keep the pace and distance low on fall rides but they are not real patient. Willie is the most senior athlete and, like me, he needs more conditioning  and recovery these days. Ivy's bandana makes her more visible in the woods.

If you trust your dog to stay with you, and most will, Camp Robinson is a good place to take a well behaved dog for some mutual exercise. Keep aggressive dogs at home. 


This wet fall has created a perfect environment for mushrooms. Like many other folks, this has spurred my interest in learning more about them.
Coral mushrooms like these are everywhere at Camp. They are edible but I've refrained from trying them without some expert confirmation.

 These caught my eye due to their size-they were 9-10" across

I'm just trying to learn some basics of mushroom identification and have not eaten any wild finds. The variety of types is almost overwhelming but very interesting. 

Current Sportsman Pass Procedure
Access to Camp Robinson for riders requires a Sportsman Pass. The procedure has been slightly different each year since the system used for hunters and fishermen was made to include cyclists.
I renewed my pass yesterday and the current process is below, subject to change:

1- At the visitor center, where riders normally check in, present your driver's license, along with current auto registration and proof-of-insurance
This step is required even if you have a current pass, as they run the required new background check at this point.
You will be issued a temporary pass that confirms the background check. 

2- After entering the gate with your pass and photo ID, proceed to Building 4201, where you pay $30.00 in cash or check (no credit cards) for the annual pass and will get a receipt.  This is a new step from last year's procedure. 

3-After getting a receipt for your payment, go to the nearby HQ building where signs will direct you to the office where passes are issued. They will want to see your pass, receipt, and photo ID. They'll take your picture and issue a new pass and dashboard card. 

The process is only slightly tedious, and I would suggest allowing about 30 minutes and a little patience. 

Current hours for obtaining passes are Monday-Friday 8:00AM-3:00PM, closed from 11:00-12:00 for lunch. 

The most common hang-up is lack of current proof-of-insurance. Check your documents before heading out to avoid delays. 
This was mentioned to me by the security guard because mine had just expired and my new proof of insurance was laying on my desk at home. I had to call my agent and have it e-mailed to my phone as I waited. 

Upcoming Closure Dates
TA 2 is closed from time to time for hunting and for military operations.

 Note the closure dates shown above.

I'm looking forward to my annual re-learning-to-mountain-bike experience. I love being in the woods and I also get reacquainted with my dedicated dirt riding friends. Wednesday evenings are regular ride nights at Camp for many folks, often including a post ride social hour.