The regional trail system will grow in miles and connectivity as municipalities ride toward 2020.
“The trail system will have expanded significantly (by then),” said Elizabeth Bowen, project manager for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.
The Razorback Regional Greenway will be extended at both ends. There will be a connection from mile zero to Kessler Mountain Park in Fayetteville, which should be finished by 2020, Bowen said. Construction should begin this summer on the northern extension from Lake Bella Vista in Bentonville into Bella Vista.
Officials often refer to the Greenway as the spine of the region’s trail system. Efforts will be made to build connections from surrounding communities to the spine, Bowen said.
The Regional Planning Commission adopted the Northwest Arkansas Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan in December 2015. It identifies 17 catalyst projects that are to be completed through regional partnerships between various agencies.
The plan calls for 10 of the projects to be finished by 2020, but that won’t likely happen even though several have started, Bowen said.
“Those performance measures were pretty ambitious,” she said.
The environmental studies and designs of the projects could take up to two years, she added.
The regional plan identifies 32 communities in Benton and Washington counties that will have trail routes. The 25 communities with populations of at least 1,000 have individual Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans that were created to fit into the regional master plan.
The region’s four largest cities updated existing individual plans.
Bentonville’s plan calls for adding 5 miles of hard surface trail through 2020 that will better connect its system.
Citizens Park Trail, a 1-mile loop around the Bentonville Community Center, will connect the center to all the amenities on its grounds as well as the South Bentonville Trail, which connects to the recently constructed Trail of Two Cities, said David Wright, parks and recreation director.
The 2.5-mile Trail of Two Cities will run from the Community Center to the trail head on Horsebarn Road in Rogers, connecting to the Greenway. The 1.5 miles on the Bentonville side was completed in December. The Rogers’ portion should be finished in October.
A Greenway reroute through downtown Bentonville is also expected to be done this year, Wright added. The trail can be confusing to follow in parts as users are directed via signs to use sidewalks for parts of the trail. The new route will provide better connectivity through the city’s core by being a block east of the square.
“The main thing we’re hearing from our citizens is ‘we love our trails, we love certain parts of the trail system more than others because of the connectivity,’” Wright said.
Rogers’ primary focus is to finish a nearly 16-mile loop around the city, said Nathan Becknell, city engineer.
Part of the loop is under construction between Regional Sports Park and Forester Park where the Rogers Activity Center is. All that will remain once that’s complete is a 1-mile stretch connecting downtown to the Activity Center, Becknell said.
A connected transportation network is Becknell’s main goal concerning the trail system.
“I want people to be able to travel around the city of Rogers in whatever mode they choose to take and do that safely,” he said.
There will be also be a push for creating protected bike lanes using medians to separate cyclists and motorists in the near future, officials in multiple cities said.
The protected bike lanes will allow cyclists to utilize the existing road network, and they’re also cheaper than building new trails, Becknell said.
Fayetteville is focusing on connectivity and making its bike lanes safer, said Matt Mihalevich, trails coordinator.
“I do think there’s going to be more of a focus for the on-street component for active transportation, but really trying to make it safe and comfortable for the riders as we continue to expand the network,” he said.
Fayetteville adds at least 2 to 3 miles each year to its trail system, which has 42 miles of paved trails, according to Mihalevich. The city’s Trail Construction Plan shows about 14.5 miles being built through 2020.
“We’re continuing to connect point A to point B, from where people live, where people work and try to get those connected better with a safe facility,” he said.
The Cato Springs Trail connecting to Regional Park should be finished this year. The Niokaska Creek Trail will be a focus for next year, which will also replace the trails and provide new lighting in Gully Park, Mihalevich said.
Also, Old Wire Road will likely get an on-street lane tying into Gully Park, he said.
Springdale plans to have portions of a north-south trail and east-west trail constructed by 2020, according to Melissa Reeves, director of public relations.
Dean’s Trail will eventually connect Shiloh Trail to Lake Fayetteville, but the portion between the Jones Center and East Robinson Avenue should be completed by 2020, she said.
The first phase of the Pride of Springdale Trail, an east-west route that will connect the city’s two high schools to the Greenway, is under design. The first phase will connect 40th Street to Springdale High School and should be done by 2020, Reeves said.
The city will then pursue addition funding for the remaining sections of both trails, she said.
Cities in other Northwest Arkansas counties are also seeking to expand and connect their trail systems.
“We have a lot of plans,” said Doug Reinert, Fort Smith Parks and Recreation director. “Right now we have a master plan that totals roughly 36 miles.”
Fort Smith has about 5.5 miles of hard surface trails and another 5.5 miles of sharrows — roads with marked bike lanes. Another 8 miles of trails are in the works, according to Reinert.
“Our goal is to eventually be able to bike or hike or walk 36 miles all the way around the city of Fort Smith and end up in the same place that you started,” he said.
Connectivity is a focus moving forward for the trail system in Eureka Springs as well.
“The future of trails in Eureka Springs lies with a connected system of trails to move people to locations that they want and need to go,” according to the website dedicated to the trail system. “The current trails are excellent but lack connectivity.”
There are more than 20 miles of trails in Lake Leatherwood City Park northwest of Eureka Springs and 2 miles in Black Bass Lake City Park adjacent to the city’s southwest. There’s also about 2 miles of trail segments throughout the city, according to the website.
Plans include creating a trail loop in the city, doubling the number of trail miles in Lake Leatherwood and Black Bass Lake city parks, and connecting the three areas together.
“This will allow trail users to hike or bike throughout the town and access Lake Leatherwood and Black Bass parks easily and safely,” the website states.