BELLA VISTA -- With hatchery season underway, Lakes and Fisheries Superintendent Rick Echols is hoping three new aquaculture ponds will help make this the best one ever for the Bella Vista Property Owners Association.
The ponds must first be completed.
"We will be starting our hatchery season next week, and so we'll be collecting brood fish for that," Echols said during the Lake Committee's monthly meeting held March 8 at the Bella Vista Country Club board room. And when asked about the expected completion date of the aquaculture ponds, he responded, "I need [all three] to be functioning by the end of the month of March."
One pond has already been fitted with underlayment and a liner. The other two have not. Workers will also install a siphon to bring water from Loch Lomond to each of the three ponds.
"[The construction] is ongoing," he said. "We've got the underlayment and liner for the first pond done, and it looks really good and holds water. We have two remaining liners ready to go and a catch basin for the third pond is ready to be formed and poured in the next couple of weeks. And we're prepping the site to install the water supply line. That's all coming together pretty well."
When finished, the ponds will hold fish fingerlings that, when big enough, will be transferred into the POA's lakes.
Echols said an event is being planned for next month to show off the new ponds and let the public see the process and ask questions.
"We're actually having an aquaculture and Lakes and Parks open house where we're constructing the aquaculture ponds," he told the committee. "It will be April 15 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. We've invited the animal shelter to come and have a booth. POA Rangers will have a station and will be able to answer questions and give out information, and we're also going to give tours of the aquaculture ponds and talk about what we're doing and will have some of our equipment on hand to show what we do. We're also considering having food trucks and vendors."
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
The POA Rangers made 969 contacts in the month of February as compared to 683 the previous year.
"I can only attribute that to weather," Echols said. "The month started off kind of cold and snowy but it ended up much better."
Twelve people who were not members were removed from POA lakes and there were 11 contacts made by boat.
Grounds maintenance crews cleared the overflow at Lake Rayborn, cleared branches from the Lake Avalon spillway and finished work on the new fishing dock at Lake Windsor.
"It looks good," Echols said of the dock. They leveled it out, and it looks much better than it did."
Helping financially with the dock project was the Bella Vista Fly Tyers Club.
Crews have also been busy building an additional kayak rack at Lake Ann.
"There always seems to be a waiting list for racks at Lake Ann," Echols said.
The new rack has spots for 10 kayaks, but the current waiting list for kayak spots is greater than 10.
"Kayak registrations continue to go up year after year," said POA Chief Operating Officer Tom Judson, who reminded those at the meeting that boat and kayak registration numbers from the staff's report can be found on the POA website (bellavistapoa.com) in the financial section.
Echols reported that his department is "technically fully staffed right now," but that he did have some summer ranger positions yet to be filled. "We have those advertised, and we'll be looking at those to make decisions on hiring new rangers for the summer," he said.
Echols said he and a few other members of his department completed prescribed burn training March 7 with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission so they can better manage the grassy dams at each of the POA lakes.
"Some of our dams are too steep to mow or, for other reasons, we can't mow them, so fire is the other option" for keeping them from becoming an issue, he said.
It was also announced at the meeting that the POA finally received its 2023 trout permit and that 1,200 rainbow trout were subsequently stocked in Lake Brittany on Feb. 27. He said there will be one more stocking this year -- some time in the spring -- because of the delay.
All of the Christmas trees received by Echols' department for fish habitat have been dispersed. This year the trees were sunk in Loch Lomond.
Trey Anson, manager of The Marina at Lakepoint, said the facility will open April 1. He said the hours will be 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Summer hours will begin after Memorial Day.
"All of our prices were locked in during the last 2023 vote so the prices will be the same this year as they were last year," Anson said. "We'll have some new stuff, but we'll wait [to announce that] until we open to surprise everyone."
JAC members with expiring terms in June 2023 include Arell Wasson, Carroll Phillips, Ross Gerner, Paul Bickford and Grace Turley.