~ ATV trails marked in Fairfield Bay

ATV trails marked in Fairfield Bay

By Kayla Baugh Published October 5, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Courtesy of Robin Richards

Stacia and Zach Harmon, left, ride alongside Johnny Sowell and his son, Kyler, on the trails in Fairfield Bay.

FAIRFIELD BAY — One of Fairfield Bay’s best-kept secrets is finally coming to light.

About 90 miles of dirt roads — often used by locals as trails for all-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles — run throughout the city.

For the past few months, those roads have been in the process of being marked as trails.

Rocky Nickles, general manager of the Fairfield Bay Community Club, said the trails are just wide enough for side-by-side UTVs to fit on them.

“The trails are washed out at times, so they can be challenging, but extremely scenic,” he said. “You’ll be riding along, and the next thing you know, you’ll come up on deer or turkeys. We’re on the north shore of Greers Ferry Lake, and we have about 14,000 acres on the lake that are made up of mountains. All through those mountains, dirt roads are cut. You’re in a community, and at any given time, you’re not a mile or so from a paved road, but it seems like you’re in the middle of nowhere. You lose track of where civilization is.”

Nickles said one can ride on the trails all day long and never visit the same place twice.

“It’s not just going around and around in a circle like some places. You’re seeing new things, new challenges are just around the bend, and you come across all sorts of wildlife,” he said.

The trails are located all over Fairfield Bay, he explained, but they have been broken down into sections and mapped.

The main purpose of marking the trails is for public safety, he said.

“We’ve put up markers, so if you want to stick to the trails we think you’re OK on, then follow the arrows and signs,” he explained. “We have the trails marked with arrows and a number. That way if you get in trouble, you can dial 911, and the first things they’ll ask are what’s wrong and where you are. Tell them the last number you saw, or if you didn’t see the number, you can tell them the trail name, and someone will find you.”

There are currently three sets of marked trails — the Yellow, Blue and Orange trails — but Nickles said the Red Trail should be fully marked by winter.

The trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week.

“We try to keep all of this very simple so people will be mindful of where they are so we can find them if they need help,” he said.

Nickles said trail difficulties range from easy and comparable to a maintained dirt road to challenging and steep, offering something for everyone.

“The trails are already there, and the roads are already there. We aren’t creating anything; we’re just marking them.”

As of Aug. 1, it is legal to ride ATVs and UTVs on a highway as long as you’re within 3 miles of a trailhead, he said.

“We designated 90 miles of our roads as trails in Fairfield Bay, so you’re never more than 3 miles from a trailhead. It’s very legal to ride them,” Nickles said.

Although the trails officially opened Sept. 16, people have been using them for years, he added.

One local trailblazer is Jack Weeks, president of the board of directors for the Fairfield Bay Community Club.

“Since I already knew the trails, I kind of took it upon myself to put a system together so outsiders could use it without getting lost. It’s easy to get lost or turned around,” Weeks said.

He said that as an outdoorsman, it’s nice living so close to the network of trails.

“Fairfield Bay is quite hilly. The trails wind through a forest and, in some cases, by the lake. In some cases, you can be by a river, or you can have panoramic views of the surrounding territory. It gives you a little bit of everything but makes you feel like you’re in Colorado, 100 miles from the nearest human,” he said.

Weeks said he suggests that trail users park in the center of the city at Ed Leamon Park, then ride their ATV or UTV to each trailhead.

“The fact is, it’s beautiful country. You see things that are just absolutely gorgeous,” Nickles said.

“You cross babbling brooks, you can drive down by the lake, or you can drive over to the marina and feed the fish. There are so many things you can do while riding the trails here that will give you pleasure, and there’s so much time you can spend here enjoying yourself,” he said.

“It’s very relaxing being out on the trails. My kids love them and have tons of fun. It’s absolutely beautiful,” Nickles said.

“If you come up to use the trails,” Weeks said, “enjoy the day, but be safe, careful and courteous.

“Plan to have one of the best riding experiences you’ve ever had.”

For more information or trail maps, contact the Fairfield Bay Community Club at (501) 884-6010.

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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