BETHESDA (AGFC) – The east side of Pool 2 on the White River has long been an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission priority location for boating access. While this pool is easily accessible from the west side at the AGFC's Martin Access in Stone County, that access area does not serve eastside anglers very well. That is about to change with the construction of the Robert Gray Miller Access near Bethesda. A dedication ceremony for the new access was held Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. to officially open the area.
This section of the White River is blocked by dams above and below the accesses which prevent entry from public boat ramps at Guion and Batesville. The only semi-public access has been a primitive boat ramp site into a slough which empties into the river just above the dam and a primitive gravel ramp.
The dam site access is undesirable for two reasons. First, during periods of very low water levels in the slough, boats have difficulty entering the river. Secondly, safety is a big concern at the location. If a boat motor dies after entering the river, a boat can be instantly swept over the dam. Through the years the AGFC has had many requests for a project in the area. Lack of available and suitable property at a reasonable price has always been a problem.
In the recent past, Rep. Tommy Wren and Independence County Justice of the Peace Larry Nelson were contacted by Bethesda area residents about building a public boat ramp in the area. In January 2011, a public meeting was held in Bethesda where over 100 interested anglers and civic leaders met to discuss potential sites. At that meeting, Independence County Judge Robert Griffin committed his assistance in road construction and site preparation. Nelson passed away before the project could be finished. His wife Barbara is serving the remainder of his term.
A suitable location was eventually found and civic leaders, as well as AGFC administrators, were able to get former State Senator Paul Miller and his family to agree to donate two acres of their pastureland for the ramp and parking area, plus road access to the site. As part of the donation, the family asked that it be named for Paul Miller's father Robert Gray Miller.
The project was designed by the AGFC's Area Maintenance Coordinator Mike Cantrell. Cantrell also handled all the permit applications and the countless items required before a project can be started. The Marine Fuel Tax project is a joint project between the AGFC and Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department using AHTD funds derived from the estimated percentage of fuel tax revenues which come from boat motor gasoline. This fund can be used only to build or improve roads, boat ramps and parking which access free public boat access area as directed by the AGFC.
As part of the project, Independence County agreed to provide the equipment and labor to build the road and parking area base, while Marine Fuel Tax funds provided materials and paving contractor costs. The ramp itself was built by the AGFC's construction crew. Estimated cost of the project is $260,000.