A long-standing belief among Arkansas outdoor enthusiasts is, if the state’s varied interests could join together, they could move mountains for the benefit of wildlife and outdoor recreation by the state’s citizens.
This did happen in the early 1990s. A coalition of public agencies, conservation organizations and private citizens locked arms and created Ed Gordon-Point Remove Wildlife Management Area in Conway and Pope counties.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials opened eyes wide when it learned that the big Schewe farm in western Conway County was going on the market. It was rich land straddling two forks of Point Remove Creek, and adjoining land included a swamp called Goose Lake, popular with ducks. It was also for sale. Seldom had such a large tract been available. Trouble was, other interests – developers and hunting clubs – were highly interested too.
The AGFC wanted it all right but was tightly strapped for money, with cutbacks frequent and staff vacancies unfilled. Federal aid was ready for three-fourths of the cost, but prospects were dim of AGFC coming up with the remaining one-fourth of the multi-million dollar price tag.
Phone calls were made. Explanations were earnestly given, and good things began to happen. The Arkansas Nature Conservancy stepped forward to secure the transaction while Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation. Arkansas Heritage Commission and others dug into pocketbooks.
Negotiations included use of federal payments for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to go toward the purchase price. Owner of the adjoining land, Mrs. Ruby Cargill, put a fourth of the money she was getting back into the pot.
Blackwell Bottoms, as it was called at the time, went into public ownership. It was the first large North American Waterfowl Conservation Act (NAWCA) project in Arkansas.
A more fitting name was created, linking a prominent Morrilton attorney and former AGFC commission with the major creek that flowed through the area. A lake on the northern portion of the WMA was named for Mrs. Cargill’s late husband, W.J. Cargill, a prominent area resident and sportsman.
From the outset, Ed Gordon/Point Remove has been a multi-purpose facility in the broadest sense. But ducks are near the top of its list. Ducks were already using Goose Pond and other lowlands, and with some encouragement, more ducks could be enticed.
Ducks Unlimited contributed a highly specialized machine called a Malsam Terracer. Drawn by tractor, it built low levees in a fraction of the time that conventional earth-moving equipment could do. Ed Gordon/Point Remove’s duck habitat multiplied.
Some quail lived on the higher ground of the WMA and field trial enthusiasts pitched in with the AGFC to improve conditions — the result being frequent competitions and birddog training. A clubhouse was built for use by field trial participants and by anyone else when it’s not reserved. Family reunions and wedding receptions are just a couple of the uses for the building not far from the Hattieville community.
It’s officially the Wylie Cox Field Trial Area, with another well-regarded area sportsman honored. Not just dogs seeking quail use it. Beagles going after rabbits are frequently in competition on the area too.
For hunters, the top attractions are ducks when sufficient water is on hand, deer for archery hunters and by permit for modern gun hunters. Doves are also abundant.
Management activities involve several strategies for the wetlands, including working timber along the creeks. In the uplands, fields are disced in strips, planted with grain and burned when needed to encourage wild food plants to flourish. Bush-hogging is also done to keep lanes open for horse riders in the field trial area. Plantings for doves include brown-top millet. Winter wheat helps attract deer and turkeys.
Ed Gordon/Point Remove is reached from the south by the Blackwell Exit off Interstate 40. On the north, Arkansas Highway 213 at Hattieville gives access to the field trial area, the other parts of the WMA and to Lake Cargile.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.