Every January employees of the POA along with some helpful volunteers take on a quiet recycling project. What starts out as the centerpiece of many family Christmas celebrations becomes much needed fish habitat in one of Bella Vista's man-made lakes.
In December, POA Lakes & Fisheries Superintendent Rick Echols decides which lake needs the habitat. He rotates the location between the lakes -- although the larger lakes will get more trees -- and announces where residents can drop off their Christmas trees. This year it's Pontoon Park on Lake Windsor. Through the month of January the trees are piled up at the designated location.
In recent years, local retailers have joined the effort. Recently, almost 200 unsold trees were donated by Walmart and Tractor Supply, Echols said. Hundreds more come in one at a time from area residents.
Christmas trees are accepted until the first of February, but they need to be free of all ornaments and tinsel, he said.
He usually calls around and finds a retailer who will donate concrete blocks as well.
Eventually, each tree is wired to a concrete block, loaded on one of the POA's working boats and sunk somewhere close to the collection point.
In the past, members of the Fly Tyers have helped sink the trees -- as many as 500 trees a year.
Christmas trees, he explained, make good fish habitat. Fish are attracted to the trees which provide some shelter from larger, predatory fish. Eventually, the bark of the trees will provide some nutrients as well.
Although the trees are never pulled back up, after a few years they decompose in the water and are no longer effective as habitat. With seven lakes needing habitat, the Christmas tree project will continue indefinitely.
While some anglers like to keep their favorite spots secret, that's not the case with the POA. Echols is happy to share the location of the fish habitat with anyone who asks. He plans to publish an updated map as soon as he can develop it. There are still some older maps of fish habitat around, he said.