Popular lake pier shut down as unsafe

Thursday, June 3, 2004

The popular fishing pier and walkway at Parker Bottoms, in the tailwaters of Beaver Lake, were officially closed on Wednesday because the structures were deemed unsafe.

Jim Price, regional contract coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the rock and concrete structure was damaged when Beaver Dam floodgates were opened after heavy rainfall drenched the area in late April and early May.

The fishing pier and walkway, believed to be constructed with volunteer labor four years ago, was submerged and subjected to 31,000 cubic feet per second (csf) of rapidly flowing lake water for nearly 24 hours while the floodgates were open, Price said.

"It's cracked all the way down," said Price. "I'm asking FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for $300,000 to remove and replace the structure. They are coming here next week."

Price said he realizes the importance of the fishing spot, which is located on Corp of Engineers property.

"A lot of people fish from it," he said. "There are usually 25 to 40 people fishing whenever I stop by. It's very popular and a beautiful site. And, it's the easiest for a wheelchair to get to the water, even though it's not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant."

On Wednesday, George Ann Tabor, chief ranger with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, officially closed the walkway and pier by placing a tape barricade and signs at the entrance.

"People can still fish," she said, "just not off the structure."

Rangers who patrol the area will ask anglers to move off the structure if they are found fishing from the cordoned-off site, she said.

Price said he hopes FEMA will approve funds to replace the pier and walkway so anglers can once again frequent the popular trout fishing site.

If approved, the job will be bid out, Price said, and likely take until the end of summer to complete.

"If I get to reconstruct it, I'd like it built with reinforced concrete, with the sidewalk laced to the walls with rebar, and clean the stones to cover all the exposed concrete, except the sidewalks," Price said.

He said it would be handicapped accessible and estimated it would cost $253,000 "to put the existing footprint back," and another $47,000 to clean and replace the rock. If FEMA funds don't materialize, Price said Game and Fish and the Corp of Engineers will "try to do a cooperative project to reconstruct something to serve the fishing and handicapped public.", Price said he will also be asking FEMA for funds to repair other flood damaged areas, including a boat ramp at Romp Hole on the Kings River, the parking area at the Rock House access point to the Kings, and a road in Madison County Wildlife Management Area that has ruts "four feet wide and three feet deep for 1.5 miles."

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