Arkansas Unpaved Roads Program

The Problem 

Eroding unpaved roads can channel rainfall runoff, increasing erosion and sediment delivery to our streams, rivers, and lakes. 

This sediment can have negative effects for both people and nature. It can fill in gravel stream beds, causing the loss of in-stream habitat for game and non-game fish and other aquatic species alike, make freshwater sources more expensive to treat for drinking water, and ultimately contribute to loss of lake capacity, further jeopardizing these drinking water sources. Economies that depend on recreational fishing and boating may also suffer from degraded water quality. 

Eroding unpaved roads are expensive to maintain, requiring continual grading to smooth out the effects of concentrated drainage flowing across the road surface. Problem roads can also cause excessive wear and tear on vehicles and contribute to high levels of road dust, a significant issue in many rural areas. 

Over 85% of Arkansas county roads are unpaved

The Challenge 

Best Management Practices (BMPs) for construction and maintenance of unpaved roads are broadly accepted by road engineers and maintenance professionals as the most effective approach to managing roads that minimize sediment impacts to adjacent water bodies and aquatic habitat.
 
Use of BMPs reduces erosion and sedimentation by providing better drainage to the road system, stabilizing erodible ditches and drainage outlets, and creating a more durable driving surface. BMPs can reduce long-term costs by greatly reducing the need for replacing road surface gravel and reducing the need for road grading.
 
Road managers often do not have sufficient training to prescribe and implement BMPs appropriate to the unique conditions of their road systems. Even managers with knowledge and experience with BMPs may not have the budget needed to implement these practices. Though BMPs can reduce long-term costs, they may require greater up-front costs.

The Solution 

In 2015, Act 898 of the 90th General Assembly officially established the Arkansas Unpaved Roads Grant Program The program is currently housed at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Natural Resources, and will fund more than $300,000 worth of projects in Arkansas counties. 

The Program’s goals are to:

  • Fund safe, efficient, and environmentally sound projects for the maintenance of dirt and gravel roads that have been identified as sources of sediment or dust.
  • Provide training to road maintenance professionals on techniques of dirt and gravel road maintenance that minimize negative impacts to water and air quality.
  • Conduct demonstrations of new and innovative techniques of dirt and gravel road construction and maintenance to assist in training of road crews and to more broadly share BMPs.

Program partners:

Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts

Arkansas Economic Development Commission 

Division of Rural Services

Arkansas Farm Bureau

Arkansas Forestry Association

Arkansas Forestry Commission

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department

Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Natural Resources

Natural Resources Conservation Service

County Judges

The Association of Arkansas Counties

The Nature Conservancy

University of Arkansas

US Fish and Wildlife Service

The program coordinates federal, state, and private funding to implement projects, trainings, and demonstrations. Counties or other road managers will leverage program funding for projects by matching one-to-one with cash or in-kind contributions and be eligible to apply for funding once they have completed an unpaved roads BMP training workshop. 

Project proposals will be reviewed by an advisory committee to prioritize limited funds. Preference will be given first to proposed projects in priority watersheds, which are identified by a criteria committee to include endangered species, drinking water sources, and other important characteristics. 

All 75 Arkansas counties are eligible to apply for program funding through the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Natural Resources. Applications for funding are due each March and can be found on the agency’s website or by calling and requesting one by mail. 

Click here to view the Arkansas Unpaved Roads application packet.

Interested in applying? 
Steve Stake, Grants Coordinator 
Arkansas Department of Agriculture
Division of Natural Resources 
101 East Capitol, Suite 350 
Little Rock, AR 72201 
Work: (501) 682-3956 
E-mail: steve.stake@arkansas.gov