Leader Blues

Thursday, December 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Bayou Meto canoe trail starts next summer

Leader staff writer

Canoeists looking for gentle waters to explore in central Arkansas have a flat water trail on the Bayou Meto to look forward to.
The Arkansas Stream Team chapter at North Pulaski High School has set its sights on the two-mile stretch of the bayou running from Hwy. 67/167 to Hwy. 161 by Reed’s Bridge as a worthy community project and a way to improve their GPS tracking skills.
Mike Stanley, president of the central Arkansas chapter of the Arkansas Canoe Club, says the bayou will offer a canoeing experience not widely available in the state. It will also be well-suited for those not highly skilled at manning a canoe.
“Flat water paddlers are at a little bit of a disadvantage because there are not a lot of slow-moving canoe trails established,” Stanley said.
“This one will be close to Little Rock with easy access at both ends and a shuttle that is a short drive. There won’t be a lot of safety issues; a life jacket will be just fine.”
The bayou won’t be safely navigable until it is cleared of logjams and other debris, which could take until next summer.
The project kicks off this Tuesday when NPHS EAST lab students – also members of the Stream Team – will scope out the area under direction of their teacher, Julia Leonard. Their objective is to use GPS technology to create maps of the bayou, including one that identifies waterway obstructions.
The trail-development project is a collaboration of the NPHS Stream Team, along with the city of Jacksonville, Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, and the Arkansas Canoe Club.
A Boy Scout troop has shown interest in identifying and labeling trees and other plants along the banks of the bayou.
Once the weather warms in the spring, the plan is for volunteers in waders and armed with chain saws to begin clearing hazardous obstructions from the waterway, guided by the map created by the students.
Future plans include construction of access ramps at the end points of the trail as well as mid-way, a short walk from Dupree Park.
A walking trail along the shore of the bayou is also part of the plans. All of that must await the city’s acquisition of grant money. Public works director Jimmy Oakley is looking into that, but he already sent a crew to rough-out the course for the future trail.
Ron Newport, executive director of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, tried out the trail course recently.
“It was very scenic, very peaceful, very nice,” Newport said.
Clearing obstructions from the stream will also improve the Bayou Meto effectiveness in flood control, Newport noted.
He envisions the project as the start of a larger effort to improve other sections of the Bayou Meto to the east and west of Jacksonville.
“Many schools have Stream Teams so this may generate some enthusiasm,” Newport said.
The Arkansas Canoe Club is lending a hand to the effort with volunteers, canoes, and other equipment once the cleanup gets under way. Members have also offered their expertise with right-of-way acquisition, design of ramps, depth markers and other canoe trail issues.
The Arkansas Stream Team is a program of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission dedicated to river, stream, and bayou conservation. It offers opportunities for citizens to cleanup and stabilize stream banks and other water quality and habitat protection efforts.
The head of the meandering Bayou Meto is located northwest of Jacksonville, just over the border in Faulkner County. South of Jacksonville, the stream continues to the southeast until it flows into the Arkansas River near Gillett.