Out with the old and in with the new  that’s the usual sentiment as folks move in to a new year, but members of Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen of America had a lot to reflect on and celebrate at our annual meeting in January before we were ready to move on to new business. At the center of our reminiscing was the12 day Silver Celebration River Ride from Ponca to the White River.

If you missed it, you can read more about that memorable ride in the November issue of Roundup, where you’ll notice how important planning and preparation was to the ride’s success. Riders each took responsibility for a section of the nearly 150 miles of trails we planned to cover, scouting, riding and clearing ’’their section” several times as needed before the ride began. This approach was such a key part of getting the trails in shape, we decided to use it for this year’s routine trail maintenance work. Adopt-a-Trail 2020 will cover our usual territory of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness area to Mt. Hersey (another chapter, Lower Buffalo River BCH, takes over from there). While we still have a few orphan trails waiting to be claimed, most of our trails have already been adopted by our members who agree to ride and help maintain that section several times throughout the year. A trail caretaker is not responsible for all the maintenance of their adopted section, but they will let the group know when work days are needed, and we can schedule accordingly. For those not familiar with Buffalo River BCHA, our mission statement is “we keep your trails open,” and it’s through these regularly scheduled work days and camp outs that we put that mission into action. If the idea of a poor, uncared-for trail makes you uncomfortable, come join us. We welcome new members anytime, and you will find that you can make a difference while riding some of the most beautiful trails in the country.

While it’s true that our trail work on the upper Buffalo is the primary focus that keeps our boots firmly planted on the ground, we still have our eyes on the future. Our next order of business for 2020, in fact, falls somewhere in the realm of dreams and visions – pursuing a contiguous equine trail system across Arkansas from near Devils Den to the Sylamore area. For 25 years our members have whispered about this possibility, but now we are stating it out loud. We recognize the long term nature of such an undertaking, but, still, it’s exciting to be moving forward with the feasibility stage. This project, of course, will need to be a cooperative effort, so we are beginning to reach out to other trail groups. Already Mike Sprague of the Arkansas Trails Council has expressed an interest, and several members met last year with the NPS and the National Forest Service to outline our intentions. The Michigan Trail Riders Association with the successful Michigan Shore to Shore Ride, has been particularly helpful as its board has more than 50 years experience in developing and overseeing a similar project. They advised that we have a short and a long term goal in mind before proceeding and to start small by initially joining just two sections of trails. Interestingly, the Michigan Trail Riders began years ago with a pilot flying low over members on horseback and radioing the locations of deer trails to help them connect trail sections.

So, there it is: dream or reality, that remains to be seen, but some of our members are now busy poring over maps looking for best possible routes, while others are beginning to make contact with trail groups and horse camps that may share our goals. Meanwhile, it’s still business as usual, Back Country style, with monthly rides and work days being scheduled. If you are a trail rider with an eye to the future or you are simply someone who cares about preserving and protecting trails in Arkansas, we extend the invitation again. Come join us. For information about work days, call (870) 480-6655 or contact our membership chair Elaine Appel at (513) 477-0598. For additional information, visit us at arkansasbch.org or on our public Facebook page at Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen of America. You can get to know us there with the new “This is Us” series introducing you to some of our members.