Volunteers from the Friends of Lake Ouachita (FOLO) and the LOViT Traildogs met atop Hickory Nut Mountain at the Lake Ouachita Vista parking area this past week, January 19, 2021, for a “Pickup & Clean UP The Mountain” event.
The over sixty-year old recreation area atop the mountain includes a large rock-lined vista with a spacious parking area. The north side of the Vista offers unparalleled views of Lake Ouachita and its tree-carpeted islands almost a thousand feet below. The south side of the Vista falls away into a lush valley stretching east to Crystal Springs and west to Mt. Ida.
The Vista has once again become a magnet for unique events such as the star watching of the conversion of the planets and annual meteor shower displays brilliantly seen from the mountaintop, unfettered by light pollution. In recent years, the Vista has served as the launching site for rehabilitated Bald Eagles to be released back into the wild.
Once a first-class U.S. Forest Service recreation site with an elevated viewing stand and modern restrooms, the Vista has slowly deteriorated into an unkempt place of graffiti-covered and damaged rock walls and littered slopes.
What was a source of pride for our county is now badly in need of rehabilitation. Even in its poor condition, the Vista remains a favorite destination for local residents to take visiting family and friends to show-off the grand lake views and the surrounding beauty of the Ouachita National Forest.
The FOLO and Traildog volunteers have embarked on an effort to rehabilitate the Vista and its nearby campground and once again make it a source of pride for our community. The first of the steps in this rehabilitation effort is the removal of liter and debris strewn about the Vista by irresponsible visitors who only take pride in the damage they do to the site.
The six volunteers spent the day on the steep slopes below the Vista walls, removing years of liter and other debris that had been carelessly tossed over the edge of the rock walls. They also located several of the sandstone rocks that had been ripped from the walls and thrown down the slopes. Once they had scoured the slopes on both side of the Vista, they hiked the access road leading down to the campground, picking up more trash and liter along the way.
At the campground they went from campsite to campsite, picking up trash, cleaning the fire pits of liter, and removing all manner of debris left by visitors unaccustomed to the concept of “Leave only your footprints behind” by taking their trash out when they depart. Unfortunately, trash receptacles or trash service is currently not provided on the mountain.
While at the campground, the volunteers met with a Wisconsin visitor camping in their RV near the campground’s pit toilet. These out-of-state visitors praised the unique location with its stunning winter views. Unfortunately, the toilet building had been vandalized both inside and out with graffiti and trash. The good folks camping nearby had taken their cleaning supplies and cleaned the inside of the toilet. But the outside will need repainting, something the Traildog volunteers have offered to do.
At the end of the day the six volunteers – Mike Curran, Ron & Debbie Mayfield, Jerry & Gail Shields and Al Gathright – had gathered a full pickup load of trash and debris and left both the Vista area and the campground free of the eyesore liter. The Vista site is now more presentable for the next eagle release, scheduled for Saturday, February 13, 2021.