MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Arkansas — With all the rain Arkansas has seen this week and the concern about flooding in some areas, many people have been reminded of the devastating flooding at the Albert Pike Campground in 2010.
Nobody has been allowed to spend the night there since, but a group of campers is leading the charge to open it up again.
“I spent my first night at Albert Pike in October of 1964,” Marty Walker said Monday afternoon. “I was six years old. For the next 40 years, I spent at least 2 weeks camping at the Pike every summer.”
Walker is the head of the movement to reopen the campground.
“I was at the campground during many heavy rains,” he recalled. “I was never there during a storm as severe as the 2010 storm."
The 2010 flash flood that killed 20 people was unique both for its intensity and because it happened in the middle of the night. By the time many campers woke up and realized what was happening, the water was up to their knees and rising rapidly.
“Closing the campground for a few months to honor those who perished that dreadful night and to allow adequate time for those impacted to grieve,” Walker said, “and to build a flood warning system would have been prudent.”
But he and many others believe that time has come for campers to once again be able to spend the night beneath the stars and along the banks of the Little Missouri River. Walker created a Facebook group called “Save Camp Albert Pike” that has 2,900 members.
He got more than 1,500 people to sign a petition that he delivered to the U.S. Forest Service, and said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) and State Senator Larry Teague (D-Nashville) have shown interest in the cause.
“The Forest Service allows primitive camping all along the Little Missouri River throughout the Ouachita National Forest but not in Albert Pike Campground at the current time,” Walker mentioned. “That just makes no sense.”
The campground does not have cell phone service, and the inability to get weather alerts makes it harder for campers to protect themselves. But Walker believes, if a company did decide to put up a cell tower, the U.S. Forest Service could install additional technology that would keep people safer in the event of a flash flood.
“Flood warning systems are functioning all over America and are not very expensive,” he stated. “The USFS is certainly capable of installing and operating a warning system.”
If the campground were to reopen, it could bring a lot of business to Montgomery and Pike Counties. Walker is from Texas and mentioned that lots of people come to the Ouachita National Forest from Oklahoma and Louisiana, as well.
But more importantly, it would bring opportunities for a lot of new memories to families like Walker’s.
“My Dad, who has Alzheimer’s, and my Mom, who has dementia, loved camping at Albert Pike,” he said. “I would cherish the memory of seeing my parents and others camp at Albert Pike again.”
Walker is planning a rally, as well, which he intends to take place at the campground at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 27th.