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Legacies of WWII nearby

Posted: August 2, 2014 - 11:58am
GAME AND FISH COMMISSION PHOTO   Heavy earth-moving equipment, itself a development of World War II, is used for the building of Lake Conway in 1950 and 1951.
GAME AND FISH COMMISSION PHOTO Heavy earth-moving equipment, itself a development of World War II, is used for the building of Lake Conway in 1950 and 1951.

We have abundant opportunities for hunting and fishing in the Conway area, and few folks these days realize that much of it is due to World War II.

Yes, that is ancient in many minds. The war ended 69 years ago this month.

Not long after the war was blessedly over, we had Camp Robinson surplus land come into use as a wildlife management area, a field trial area and, partly, a large fishing lake. Not everyone was in agreement with these developments, but can you imagine life today without these public facilities?

In addition, today’s city of Maumelle is a result of a World War II ordnance plant. A large and tightly guarded plant produced picric acid, a component of high explosives.

At the end of the war, the plant was demolished, much equipment was buried and the land was sold to developer Jess Odom. Maumelle New Town was created, and the name was later shortened.

Occasionally, someone will dig up an object in a Maumelle yard and wonder about it.

The story of how Lake Conway came about has been told many times and probably should be retold to preserve and bolster the appreciation for the lake and its abundant fishing opportunities.

Before the lake was built, most of the land was a dense, swampy area called the Palarm Creek Bottoms. There were a few places like Adams Lake and Green’s Lake that were fishable, but generally it was an unused tract of wetland.

During the war, the federal government grabbed huge amounts of land for the expansion of Camp Joseph T. Robinson, which had been renamed from Camp Zebulon Pike. Camp Robinson stretched nearly to Conway, a much smaller city in those days.

The federal government gave several thousand acres of land to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for use as a wildlife management area. This was separate from what remained as Camp Robinson. The transferred land had the provision that if it ceased to be used for wildlife purposes, it would revert to federal ownership.

The area later became a grounds for dog competitions — field trials. Once in a while, someone unhappy with things will raise the argument that field trials are not a wildlife usage, but rarely does this contention gain any headway.

The 1950s were the boon times for the field trial area, as well as the hottest fishing lake in Arkansas.

Quail were abundant, and the major field trials had plenty of coveys for dogs to flush over the 4,000-plus acres of the facility now called Camp Robinson Special Use Area. Competitors came from all over the nation to match their pointers, setters and other bird dogs at Camp Robinson.

Conditions changed, regrettably.

Quail diminished in number. Pen-raised birds had to be used as supplements at first and then altogether. The grounds were also used for raccoon hunting competitions and rabbit hunting competitions. Still later, horseback riders found Camp Robinson SUA an enjoyable venue for their activities.

During hunting seasons, Camp Robinson is open to public use with some restrictions. Modern gun deer hunting is by permit. Archery deer hunting is open to anyone. Muzzle-loading deer hunting is not allowed. Squirrel hunting is only from mid-May to Sept. 30.

World War II was long ago, and close-at-hand public hunting and fishing are benefits from it.

(Outdoor writer Joe Mosby can be contacted by email at jhmosby@cyberback.com.)

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