Nature trail opens behind AGFC headquarters

Nature trail opens behind AGFC headquarters

LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – A year in planning, the diligent efforts of volunteers and others have made a new nature trail possible in west Little Rock. Nuthatch Hollow Nature Trail, behind the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission headquarters and in close proximity to the Arkansas Crime Lab, Arkansas State Plant Board and other state offices on Natural Resources Drive, was unveiled Thursday, May 5.

Kirsten Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator for the AGFC, oversaw the development of the nature trail, which was carved from a 4-acre woodlot chock-full of Chinese privet and other overgrowth.

"We decided it was wasted space and we could improve it not only for the wildlife that uses it, but also for a walking trail for employees here at Game and Fish and for state employees also around us, as well as our neighborhoods around Natural Resources Drive."

The brown-headed nuthatch, one of many birds regularly seen amongst the thicket, "is kind of the 'spokesbird' for it," Bartlow said. "It's representative of the type of animals we will have back on the nature trail." The brown-headed nuthatch likes to use pieces of bark as a tool to pry away the bark from pine trees, such as those found along the trail, in its hunt for insects.

The trail has access points near the Arkansas Plant Board and the AGFC loading dock, as well as an easy access spot behind the AGFC complex's back patio. People may also access the trail on the southeast side of Natural Resources Drive, an oval road just off West Markham Street and a few blocks east of Shackleford Drive in the Corporate Hill neighborhood.

Two employees at the nearby Arkansas Plant Board who are avid birders, Bartlow said, have been tracking some of the winged creatures found around the trail, sighting warblers that regularly come through as well as scarlet tanagers, and they recently managed to photograph a broad-winged hawk catching a skink on the trail.

"Now that we've opened it up and there is not so much privet, we've seen a lot of eastern bluebirds flying in, and they like to use the space," Bartlow said. "Of course, we also have the usual suspects like raccoons and possums, we've seen their tracks, and there are box turtles hanging out in the woods."

AGFC communications and wildlife management staff performed most of the work when their spare time allowed. Bartlow and Mike Walker, an AGFC regional maintenance contract coordinator, contracted with a builder to construct two wooden bridges. They hauled in those crossings, set the footings and maneuvered culverts to redirect water runoff. Inmates from the Arkansas Department of Correction helped with clearing the trail and laying the crushed shale, which came from Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area and makes walking easier.

Trained volunteers from Arkansas Master Naturalists, including Bob and Pat Robinette of Little Rock, helped lay out the trail through the overgrowth before the clearing began. The Robinettes and others from the group will continue to help the AGFC maintain the trail as part of their service to the Naturalists.

"I want to give a 'yea' for our big bosses, our administration, for allowing us to do this," Bartlow said. "Fortunately, the expense has been quite low because of all the volunteer work."

The trail loop is about 0.4 of a mile, winding up and down through the woods, with a middle portion that bisects the loop measuring about a tenth of a mile. "It's just a nice amenity for Game and Fish employees to get in a walk and get some exercise and also for anyone else who wants to enjoy a walk among wildlife," Bartlow said.