By Randy Zellers | The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
LITTLE ROCK — Three funding reimbursements approved at last week’s Arkansas Game and Fish Commission meeting in Texarkana will create improved access for anglers and boaters on the White River in north Arkansas and at Lake Conway in central Arkansas.
Commissioners unanimously approved a total of $513,513 to allocate to the following three projects:
- A new boat ramp and parking area at River Ridge Access on the White River in Independence County was authorized at a cost of $250,000
- An improved parking and boat launch area at Lawrence Landing Access on Lake Conway in Faulkner County was authorized for an additional $195,513.
- Chesmond Ferry Access on the White River in Izard County will receive $68,000 worth of materials and labor to chip seal the road and parking area.
The River Ridge Access and Lawrence Landing accesses are complete, and the Chesmond Ferry Access is in progress. The money for these projects will come from the Marine Fuel Tax Fund, a special funding source developed through a partnership between the AGFC and the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Boaters pay the same fuel taxes as motorists when filling their vessels, so the Marine Fuel Tax Program was created in 1970 to reserve a portion of those taxes and devote them toward public access on Arkansas’s waterways.
“This is not an additional tax,” Ben Batten, deputy director at the AGFC, said. “Instead, we’re taking some of the taxes boaters were already having to pay at the pump and ensuring it is used to benefit them, too.”
According to Batten, the partnership has recently seen a revision that will enable the AGFC to deliver even more opportunities to anglers and other boaters.
“The allocation is based on what percentage of fuel purchases go to marine vessels,” Batten said. “It was set with numbers from 1967 assessments of boaters and fuel usage. We have a lot more boaters now, and the motors on the average vessel are much larger than in the 1960s. So we’ve worked with ArDOT to update that formula, and they’ve been great to work with.”
The Marine Fuel Tax Program has generated about $1.7 million per year in recent years, but the new allocation rates may double that amount.
“Since the beginning of the program, the AGFC and ArDOT have been able to devote more than $65 million to boating accesses and roads leading to Arkansas’s waterways,” Batten said. “The new formula will allow us to do even more, and we will be able to add even more amenities for boaters at ramps that currently exist.”
The program also is an excellent highlight to the many partnerships the AGFC has with local agencies throughout The Natural State. Each project requires matching funds to offset the total cost of projects, and these often are derived from local municipalities and organizations.
“Sometimes a city or county will provide funds to meet the matching requirements, but most partners are able to provide in-kind contributions to meet the value of that match,” Chris Racey, chief of staff for the AGFC said. “Construction, engineering and other in-kind contributions from local partners not only lower overall costs, but they also give local partners a way to own these improvements and take pride in the completed project.”