Ackerman Access Dedicated on North Fork River

June 16, 2004

NORFORK -Bill Ackerman has a talent for adaptations. Bill Ackerman cutting ribbon at first AGFC handicapped-accessible walk-in fishing facility as the Bill Ackerman River Ridge Access Area.

Originally a Texan, he moved to Fayetteville, liked Arkansas immensely and discovered trout fishing. Then he and wife Bootsie bought a second home, this one on the North Fork River, a trout hotspot. Along the way, Ackerman became an Arkansas Game and Fish commissioner.

His fondness for trout and fishing for them have not diminished, and other AGFC commissioners and the agency staff have kept this in mind.

Ceremonies Friday, June 11, near Norfork marked the renaming of the first AGFC handicapped-accessible walk-in fishing facility as the Bill Ackerman River Ridge Access Area. The 1.1-acre facility is on the North Fork River, a prime trout fishery, and is just outside the city of Norfork.

The access area, in a park-like setting, was built by the AGFC in 1988 and was dedicated the following year with then-U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers the principal speaker. Dr. and Mrs. Eric Heckler had hatched the project a few years earlier with an offer to donate the land. Former Baxter County Judge Joe Dillard helped with the construction.

It is on the west side of the river and is the only public access from Norfork Dam to the junction of the North Fork and the White Rivers four miles downstream from the dam. The drive of about a mile from Arkansas Highway 5 to the access is by a paved road which is covered much of the way by a tree canopy.

Forrest Wood, the AGFC’s vice-chairman who lives at Flippin, said, “They did a good job building this access area, especially because they kept these big trees.” Wood related how he and a friend in their high school days, “1948 or 1949,” heard there were trout in the North Fork River and visited it before word had gotten out to other anglers.

Some anglers regard the relatively short stretch of the North Fork River as an even better trout fishery than the neighboring world-renowned White River.

The access area is on a steep riverside, but a winding paved surface allows wheelchair users to reach the fishing pier at the water’s edge. Several picnic tables are at the area also, as are restroom facilities.

After the dedication, Ackerman said, “I’ve gotten over the disappointment of having to leave the commission. I enjoyed my 22 months as a commissioner, and I have maintained a good relationship with the commissioners, the senior (AGFC) staff and the field people.

“It’s a fabulous organization, and I will do anything I can to help. But I won’t try to impose on anybody just because I’m a former commissioner.”

AGFC commissioners are appointed to seven-year terms and are not eligible for re-appointment.

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