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Te program’s partners are the Association of Arkansas Counties; the U.S. Fish

& Wildlife Service; Te Nature Conservancy; the Arkansas Game & Fish Commis- sion; the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts; the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department; the Arkansas Forestry Service; the Arkansas Forestry Association; Farm Bureau of Arkansas; the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission; the County Judges Association of Arkansas; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the University of Arkansas. Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison and Stone County Judge Stacey Avey were elected co-chairmen of the group. Several members credited Jeff Sikes, the now-retired legislative director for the Association of Arkansas Counties, with the genesis of the group, stemming from various conversations he had with representatives from a number of organizations with which AAC works. “I think Jeff Sikes came up with the original idea of the partnership,” said Boggs, of

the Fish & Wildlife Service. “He had had lunch with me one day, discussing the pro- cess of how we try to protect species and that sort of thing. A few days later, I think, he had a discussion with Scott Simon [who is state director] of Te Nature Conservancy about what they face in trying to protect the lands in the state, and, of course, with his job at AAC, Jeff was aware of the problems that county judges experience in trying to maintain roads and bridges and the constant strain that causes on their budgets. “Te common denominator there was sedimentation, and I think it was Jeff who first came up with the idea of getting everyone together to discuss the problem and how it affected all of us. His thought was that maybe we could all work together to try to get ahead of the problem. “In the case of what we do here at Fish & Wildlife, that meant possibly solving the sedimentation problem in a time frame that allowed us to protect a species’ habitat before we had to place it on the endangered species list.” Tough such a group of disparate members working to solve a common problem

is new to this part of the country, the original organization on which the Arkansas Unpaved Roads Program is based is not. “It is modeled after a program in Pennsylvania,” said Ellison, the Polk County judge. “Tey have been doing it [working to improve unpaved roads] for about 30 years.” After a few meetings, group members decided that by using best management prac- tices, known by road engineers and maintenance professionals as BMP, the organization could try to turn the tide against the damage being caused by sedimentation and erosion. Officials at Te Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas field office in Little Rock reported to the group that it had experienced some success in sponsoring training sessions that taught BMP to construction and road maintenance personnel at demonstration sites across the state. Scott Simon, the state director, said the first two “barely” organized workshops, with small demonstration unpaved road BMP projects, were presented in 2005 in Sharp County (at Strawberry) and Carroll County (at Kings Rivers). “A lot of work and learning from county judges and staff [occurred] in the

interim,” Simon said, noting that TNC’s first formal workshop and completed un- paved road BMP demonstration project was in February 2009 in Russellville (Pope County), with the demonstration site just over the line in Johnson County. Eventually the Unpaved Road group decided to take on its first project: the

replacement of a deteriorating center-pier bridge where County Road 61 crosses Macks Creek in rural Polk County, southeast of Mena, the county seat. Te financing of that $82,452 job came from three partners: Polk County ($31,705);

Te Nature Conservancy (25,747); and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (25,000). “[Polk] County Road 61 is a part of Wolf Pen Gap, a 42-mile trail system for

ATVs that is located on U.S. Forest Service land,” Polk County Judge Ellison said. “Because it doesn’t have enough traffic on it, we would have had to put off [replacing the bridge] until we had the money to do that job. Using this as the program’s pilot project incentivizes it for us.” Ellison said the program has a number of advantages for counties, with the obvi- ous one being the economic assistance it offers. “As we do grant applications for various projects,” Ellison said, “training will be

required that uses best management practices. Partners in this group, such as the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, will sometimes be helping with that aspect.

“I think that other county officials such as the judges and the heads of the road See “PARTNERS” on Page 32 >>> COUNTY LINES, FALL 2014

Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison addresses mem- bers of the Arkansas Unpaved Roads Working Group.

Unpaved pilot

project underway in Polk County

transportation. Tey also provide the path to a number of recreational sites for residents and thousands of visitors who come to the western Arkansas county for recreation. Tat’s why Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison is among the county officials participating in the Arkansas Unpaved Roads Program, an association of a number of governmental and private groups working to prevent damage and erosion to the roads, surrounding lands, and rivers and creeks where the sediment sometimes settles. Program partners include the Association of Arkan- sas Counties; County Judges Association of Arkansas; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Te Nature Conservan- cy; Farm Bureau of Arkansas; and nine other public and private groups. Ellison and Stone County Judge Stacey Avey are co- chairmen of the organization. Members chose as the group’s pilot project the replacement of a center-tier bridge where Polk County Road 61 crosses Macks Creek, a tributary just off Board Camp Creek, about three miles south of state Highway 8, southeast of Mena, the county seat. Board Camp Creek flows into the Ouachita River, which is the home of the Arkansas fatmucket mussel. It is on a federal list of threatened species. Ellison said the gravel road is a key part of the Wolf


Pen Gap system of trails in the county. Tat trail system in the Ouachita National Forest was ordered closed to off-highway vehicles and all-terrain vehicles 32 weeks of the year by the U.S. Forestry Service to prevent damage to the environment. “As hard as it is to believe,” Ellison said, “we have 35 to 40 couples who regularly visit our county just to use the trails for off-road vehicles and all-terrain vehicles.

See “UNPAVED ROADS” on Page 32 >>> 31

npaved roads play an important role in Polk County. Making up about 1,000 of the county’s 1,300 miles of road, they are essential to

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