Officials at Buffalo National River in Arkansas have reversed themselves a bit concerning proposed winter closures after an outpouring of public reaction in favor of keeping facilities open.
Park officials say a review of park operations has resulted in a revision of the reduction in services decision announced earlier this month.
"A dramatic outpouring of concern and support for Buffalo National River was received via telephone, email, and various social media with offers of volunteer assistance. Significantly, there was little anger at the initial decision to close developed campgrounds, but there was a great deal of frustration coming from the user groups who make the most of the park during it's 'off' season," a park release said. "Winter hikers and horseback riders were the most vocal in their concern that their favorite outdoor activities would have to be reconfigured around the closures."
As a result, Superintendent Kevin Cheri has, with the input of his field staff, decided to try a more limited closure. Facilities that will be closed are Kyles Landing, Erbie Campground, all sites at Tyler Bend, and Shine Eye. The restroom near the Hwy 14 Bridge at Dillard's Ferry will be closed. Other campsites will see a reduction in services that translates to less frequent servicing of restrooms and trash collection. The only river access point affected by this decision will be the put-in at Erbie, which will be closed along with the campground.
All day-use areas and trail-head restrooms will remain open throughout the winter. Other camping facilities that will remain open include Steel Creek Campground and Horsecamp, Erbie Horsecamp, Ozark, Carver, Mount Hersey, Woolum, Bakers Ford, Grinders Ferry, Gilbert Launch, Maumee North, Maumee South, Spring Creek, Loop B of Buffalo Point, and Rush.
Erbie Horsecamp will be made available to all campers. A list of facilities and their status can be found at this site, or by calling the Tyler Bend Visitor Center at 870/439-2502.
A significant part of this decision is based on the willingness of the visitors to assist the park by assuming responsibility for their own trash by taking it home for recycling and disposal. Some trash receptacles will be removed or locked, and dumpsters removed where it has been documented that local residents deposit household trash. One helpful suggestion for winter visitors is to take time to repackage food items prior to visiting the park to reduce the volume of trash brought into the park.
The message the park received from the public was loud and clear: "What can we do to help preserve our winter recreation?"
Park officials say they hope the continuation of this "experiment" is successful and that they can plan on resuming regular operations in the future. The uncertainty of the park's fiscal health may result in modifications to operational norms, but with the help of the public and the park staff the negative impacts on visitor use and visitor satisfaction will be minimized. And, to put a positive spin on the situation, the realization of such widespread park support will translate into a better future with increased partnerships in support of Buffalo National River.