The Arkansas National Guard today announced that Rattlesnake Canyon Road, located on the Eastern perimeter of Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, is reopened to local civilian traffic.
The Guard closed public access to the approximately four mile stretch of gravel road that lies within the post boundary from May 8, 2015, until August 11, 2015, due to safety concerns with high volume of military traffic for summer training.
The May through August period encompassed the military’s annual summer training season, and the peak usage and traffic of military convoys on and around the 65,000 acre training center. This summer’s training saw over 4,000 Guard, Reserve, active Army soldiers and Department of Defense contractors training at the post during most of the months of June and July. Just last week over 1,200 U.S. Army Reserve combat engineers completed an exercise to erect a floating bridge across the Arkansas River at Fort Chaffee.
Now that the road is reopened, Guard officials say they will return to posting "Notice of Temporary Closure" signs on advisory boards at the north and south gates to Rattlesnake Canyon Road when military training may require temporary closure of the road for weekends or other scheduled training.
"We try diligently to be good neighbors with the public that surrounds Fort Chaffee," said Lt. Col. David Gibbons, training site manager for Fort Chaffee. "We greatly appreciate the support and patience of our neighbors. Frequently, we have to balance our primary mission as a regionally recognized training facility with lots of traffic, against how that impacts our neighbors. And when we train – safety is our foremost concern!"
The majority of Rattlesnake Canyon Road is a dirt and gravel road that is maintained to military operating standards - not county road standards. As a result, vehicles using the road during the dry summer months stir up considerable dust in their wake obscuring the hills and turns of the road from oncoming vehicles creating a hazardous condition. During the winter and rainy periods the road is often muddy and slick, or impassable to vehicles without four-wheel-drive.
"Our greatest concern is public safety regarding joint use of the road," said Gibbons. "Our fear is a civilian vehicle meeting a convoy of heavy military vehicles on that narrow road. Now that it is reopened, we highly encourage area residents using the road to exercise caution and manage their speed according to road and weather conditions."
For area residents the four-mile stretch of Rattlesnake Canyon Road is merely a convenient cut through from Arkansas Highway 10 to Arkansas Highway 22.