WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04) introduced the “Ouachita National Forest Overnight Camping Act” to reopen overnight camping at Albert Pike Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest.
“After the Forest Service’s decision to permanently suspend all overnight camping at Albert Pike, I have heard from countless constituents who expressed their disappointment and frustration at the decision,” said Westerman. “Albert Pike has been enjoyed by families from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas for generations. We must ensure Albert Pike is safely refitted to ensure the 2010 tragedy never occurs again, but it would be a disservice to the community to permanently ban overnight camping and deprive folks who return to Albert Pike year after year to share the experiences they had as children with their families. I look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service to allow for safe and responsible usage for years to come.”
The 1.8 million-acre Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma is a recreation destination to hundreds of thousands of people annually. One of the most popular sites within the Ouachita National Forest is the Albert Pike Recreation Area, which features hiking, swimming, and other day uses.
Albert Pike Recreation Area (APRA) was closed after a major flash flood tragically killed 20 people on June 11, 2010. In November 2020, the Forest Service initiated a planning process to determine which facilities and infrastructure would support the uses of APRA in the future. Under the Forest Service’s final decision, no overnight camping would be permitted in APRA.
The “Ouachita National Forest Overnight Camping Act” will:
- Require the Forest Service to re-open any campsites outside of the 100-year flood plain within 30 days of the bill’s enactment
- Identify areas within APRA that are suitable for overnight camping within six months
- Develop at least 54 campsites, including at least eight with water and electric capabilities, outside of the 100-year flood plain within 2 years of the bill’s enactment
Read the full bill text here.