Jul 18, 2017

Pilot Program Studies Impact of Mountain Biking on Water Quality

Arkansas uses multi-phase programs to determine watershed impact

Mountain biking may affect drinking water

Central Arkansas Water announced it is conducting a pilot program to study the impact of mountain biking on the Lake Maumelle Watershed. The study will be done in cooperation with the University of Central Arkansas and will be completed in four phases over the next 12 to 18 months. Those phases include the pilot and use-based impact studies, results, review and public input phase, and a final decision.

“We value recreation because it’s one more vehicle for people in the community to gain intimacy with and increase support for our water resources,” said Raven Lawson, watershed protection manager for CAW.

This study is one of the first major steps in conjunction with the Recreation and Decision Making Framework study completed for CAW in April 2016. This study took public requests for increased recreation activities within the Lake Maumelle Watershed and offered information on potential studies in those specific areas. Mountain biking was one area that was highlighted within the Recreation Plan for additional study.

“Studies on mountain biking have been done, but none that we are aware of that are directly connected to water quality,” said Tad Bohannon, CEO of Central Arkansas Water. “This is taking the science to the next stage.”

The initial pilot study framework was presented to the CAW Board of Commissioners at their July regular meeting. This framework spelled out what CAW and UCA will do over the next six months to prepare mountain bikes to ride a designated section of the Ouachita Trail within the Lake Maumelle Watershed. In January 2018, the results of the pilot program will be presented to the Board of Commissioners, which will determine whether to proceed into phase two at that time. If phase two is approved, a limited number of riders will be allowed to ride within the designated area, with CAW and UCA carefully monitoring the impact on the land used by the riders. All riders will be registered and approved to ride as part of the study. The area chosen for riding will not be open to public bicycle use. UCA will oversee data collection in areas such as soil compaction, soil texture, trail width and sediment displaced by mountain bike activity.

The data collected will be analyzed and presented for review by the Board of Commissioners and members of the community. Public Input will be collected and included in the final review process before any decision is made to allow mountain biking in the watershed.

Mountain biking is becoming more popular in Arkansas as a recreation activity, and the watershed surrounding Lake Maumelle is one of the most scenic areas of Arkansas. CAW understands the desire for increased recreation activities around Lake Maumelle. However, CAW’s highest priority is the protection of the water in Lake Maumelle, as that is the drinking water source for more than 450,000 people in Central Arkansas.

“Water quality is our greatest objective, and it is what we worry about the most,” Bohannon said. “However, we are always looking at other enhancements.”