Dry Run Creek project takes prestigious National Award

FRANK WALLIS • Bulletin Staff Writer • December 9, 2010

Dry Run Creek Brown Trout
Dry Run Creek Brown Trout

A yearlong project to enhance public access to Dry Run Creek, stabilize the creek’s banks and improve fish habitat is the winner of the American Fisheries Society’s prestigious Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year Award for 2010.

Tim Burnley, stream habitat coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said he nominated the project. American Fisheries Society representatives from Washington, D.C., are scheduled to present the award at the January meeting of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“The project had a lot of factors in its favor,” Burnley said. “It involved substantial public participation with the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, state support from the Game and Fish Stream Team, an educational element with the Trout Unlimited Stream Explorer Scouts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the hatchery and the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a project designed and built for people with mobility impairments.”

He said advance publicity supporting the effort also was surely an aid in raising the project’s profile in the eyes of judges.

The $230,000 project was floated in August 2009 when then-Hatchery Director Ken Boyles raised concerns that Dry Run Creek, one of the nation’s most fertile trout streams, was in danger of being “loved to death” — evident in vegetation along the creek bank trodden down and dying from heavy angler pressure.

Davy Wotton, then president of the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, announced that a grassroots organization had already adopted the project and had been at work for two years to raise more than $75,000 to match grant funding from the USFWS and an array of other funding sources, including gifts from private individuals and a $50,000 disbursement from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality as part of the Overlook Estates settlement.

Fish and Wildlife and the AGFC Sportfish Restoration Fund each added matching grants totaling $60,000 — $30,000 each.

The enhancement project was the main beneficiary of a $100,000 disbursement from Fish and Wildlife to the hatchery for flood recovery related to the record floods of 2008. About 90 percent of the disbursement will go to the enhancement project, bringing the estimated total of funds to about $230,000.

Burnley said the effort enabled him and Stream Team members Tony Crouch and Eli Powers to go to work on the creek.

“We are very, very proud of it,” Burnley said.

As the American Fisheries Society’s prestigious Sport Fish Restoration Project of the Year award winner, the project’s profile will likely become a model for similar efforts around the world.

The project involved all 1,442 feet of Dry Run Creek that is fed by the Norfork National Fish Hatchery’s discharge waters. Some 126 feet of wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and four fishing platforms were added to allow for more fishing locations and improved landing and releasing of trophy trout. The project also includes a lower observation area and an elevated observation deck with built-in seating and picnic table.

Burnley said AGFC habitat enhancements have been nominated for the award almost every time the society calls for nominations. A habitat project at Parker’s Bend on the White River below Beaver Dam won an honorable mention in 2007.

fwallis@baxterbulletin.com

read the actual story online  – http://www.baxterbulletin.com/article/20101209/NEWS01/12090323/Dry-Run-Creek-project-takes-prestigious-national-award

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