Central Arkansas Water, which has fiercely limited recreational use of Lake Maumelle and surroundings in the name of water supply protection, says it’s willing to consider opening some of territory to mountain biking.

It has embarked on a pilot project with UCA on whether mountain biking affects water quality in the Lake Maumelle watershed.

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 for mountain bikes to ride a designated section of the Ouachita Trail within the Lake Maumelle Watershed.

In January of 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.

The utility commented in a news release:

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 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.