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The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail is a stellar example of what partnerships can do in creating a multiplier effect through coordination and the managed use of funds.

 

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Lake Ouachita partnership counts on volunteers and funding cooperation

The Lake Ouachita Citizens Focus Committee (LOCFC) and its partners are the architects for the development and construction of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail in Arkansas. This system of hiking/biking trails includes an adjoining accessible "Watchable Wildlife" trail. LOCFC is a volunteer group established under provisions of the National Recreational Lakes Act by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to provide citizens' support for Lake Ouachita. In August of 2002 the LOCFC made a concept proposal to the Vicksburg District USACE for the establishment of an information center on the south side of Lake Ouachita.

photo of group on trail

Lake Ouachita Citizens Focus Committee volunteers on the trail

 

 

The concept was referred to as the Denby Bay Development Plan. It was based on a proposal originated by the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and was motivated by a common desire to improve tourism revenue in the two-shoulder seasons (spring and fall) and the off season of winter by enhancing the recreational experience for visits to the Lake Ouachita area. After extensive discussion, the concept was refined and a plan was developed to link six resorts, six USACE Recreation Areas, and two US Forest Service (USFS) campsites with a 44-mile long hiking/biking trail along the southern shore of Lake Ouachita.

The LOCFC developed an "Everyone Wins" promotional package to gain the interest and support of the groups needed to make the project successful: the USFS, the USACE the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation (AHTD), the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC), the Lake Ouachita Resort Owners Association, the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery County Judge, the Montgomery County Health Education Advisory Board, and the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. Jerry Shields, a Charter Member of the LOCFC, volunteered to serve as chairman of the Trail Development Committee of what has evolved into the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT).

The LOCF Trails Committee was joined by construction teams from the USFS the USACE the Student Conservation Association and many volunteers including members of the Ouachita Mountain Hikers and Friends of the Ouachita Trail to construct LOViT's first hiking-biking trail segment. The segment is 4.7 miles long with two one-quarter mile vista spurs. Mobilization for the second trail segment (5.3 miles long with a three quarter-mile spur) commenced in July 2006 and construction started the following fall.

photo of trail building machines

Working on the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail


By this time the LOViT Traildogs had been formed for the exclusive purpose of participating in trail construction and maintenance. Traildogs and other volunteers joined representatives of the same organizatjons that had constructed the flrst trail segment to complete the second trail segment in February 2007. Second segment construction benefited immensely from the use of a mini-trencher provided by the USACE.

Concurrent with trail construction, an agreement was reached among the LOCFC, the USACE, the USPS, the AHTD, and the Montgomery County Judge to construct a connecting Watchable Wildlife accessible trail and a Visitor Kiosk with parking and restrooms in partnership with the AGFC. Shortly thereafter, the LOCFC took steps to obtain 501(c)(3) designation for Friends of Lake Ouachita, Inc. (FOLO) in order to handle donations from trail sponsors and patrons.

The LOCFC. the USFS, and the USACE agreed to allow the installation of memorial benches along the LOViT that could be adopted by trail patrons who made a donation to the trail construction fund. The LOCFC Trails Committee was instrumental in securing approval for the installation of trailhead and directional signage, road crossing safety signs, and marked crosswalks. It also secured the support of the USACE, the USFS, and the Montgomery County Judge to develop and pave four trailhead-parking areas.

In October 2007, the third trail segment of the LOViT was started. Enthusiastic Traildog volunteers supported by construction teams from the USFS and USACE used one piece of excavating equipment from the USACE and two trail diggers leased through donations from trail patrons to FOLO. Due to the rapid rise in elevation, this 4.O-mile segment has been by far the most difficult to construct. It was, nevertheless, completed in record time in late February 2008. Through dedication, perseverance and extraordinary cooperation the LOViT is now 16 miles of hiking and biking trails blazed throughout, with trailhead and directional signs. The LOCFC worked with its partners to construct 12-foot path bridges, install 22 benches arrange for trailhead parking lots, and reconfigure portions of the trail to add several spectacular remote vistas.

The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail is a stellar example of what partnerships can do in creating an exponential multiplier affect through coordination and the managed use of funds. To date the following grants have been received:

In kind services amount to $353,420; donations of $9,500 have been received for memorial benches; the AHTD has donated land as well as a $360,000 highway bridge; and $5,200 has been received from the Lake Ouachita Resort Owners, the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Montgomery County Health Education Advisory Board. Volunteers have worked 2,390 hours which has an imputed value of $28,680. To date, the LOCFC has garnered $928,500 for planning installation and enjoyment of the LOViT system. Numerous articles about the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail have been published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and the Hot Springs Sentinel Record. The USACE has developed trail maps and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has included LOViT in its brochure about trails in the area. Both items are located at area resorts and the Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. The LOCFC is working with students attending the Mountain Pine High School to create a 3 D virtual trial map to be placed on a webpage.

 

See more about the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail at: http://www.lakeouachitavistatrail.com/

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