Construction has started on a 39-mile series of dirt trails that will wrap around the eastern half of Bella Vista.
Adam Harju with Rock Solid Trail Contracting, based in Copper Harbor, Mich., uses an excavator to cut trail Thursday as crews work to construct a network of more than 39 miles of new singletrack trail in Bella Vista. For more photos, go to www.nwadg.com/photos.
A map showing showing Bella Vista trail construction.
The bluffs, waterfalls and ravines of the city present hidden gems, said those involved in the project.
Check out mountain bike trails around the country at www.mtbproject.com. Organizers said the Bella Vista trails will be added to the site upon completion.
Mayor Peter Christie has championed the idea, saying it will build a sense of community for young families. He also sees the trails as a gateway for mountain bikers who could stop off at Bella Vista restaurants or retailers.
“It’s gaining momentum. I can feel it,” Christie said.
The trails will offer a scenic overlook of Bella Vista Way from the bluff near Trafalgar Road, said Erin Rushing, office manager for the Bentonville office of Alta Planning + Design, which created the design. There will be three small trailheads — one near Lake Ann, one off Gainsford Drive and another off Buckingham Drive. Each will have room to park from eight to 10 cars, and there could be opportunities to partner with other locations, such as area churches, for parking, Rushing said.
“We can’t put 39.1 miles right by everybody’s house,” he said.
The trails will be similar to those found at Hobbs State Park – Conservation Area near Rogers, Rushing said. Hobbs offers about 35 miles of trails used for mountain biking, hiking, trail running and horseback riding.
Bella Vista officials approved a new 150-mile trails plan early in 2015 after a yearlong study. An initial planning grant from the Walton Family Foundation was awarded to the Bella Vista Foundation, and that created the master trail plan for the city, Rushing said.
The 39-mile segment of trails is being built on land owned by the Bella Vista Village Property Owners Association and some owned by Cooper Communities, Christie said.
A 25-year licensing agreement between the city, the property owners association and the Bentonville/Bella Vista Trailblazers Association paved the way for construction on association land. A clause in the agreement notes the association can make the trails available to general public on a fee basis if the agreement is terminated. A trails maintenance agreement ironed out between the property owners association and the city calls for both to set aside $20,000 a year for trail maintenance. Friends of Arkansas SingleTrack will maintain the trails on a volunteer basis, and the set-aside money would pay for major repairs, said Cassi Lapp, communications manager for Bella Vista
A $3 million Walton Family Foundation grant was awarded to the Trailblazers for construction.
The difficulty with the construction of trails is money, said Troy Kirkendall, manager of the Siloam Springs Parks and Recreation Department.
“Cycling for us is kind of a newer thing,” Kirkendall said.
There is about 160 acres of land at Siloam Springs City Lake and 5 miles of soft-surface trails planned, Kirkendall said.
The city recently was awarded a $67,000 grant, and most of that will go toward a gravel walking trail on the south side of Taylor Orchard Road. About 4.7 miles of bike trails are planned for the north side of the road. There are plans to pay for it out of the parks and recreation budget, but a final price hasn’t been set. The project may be done in phases, he said.
“There’s a lot of competition for grants,” Kirkendall said.
John Brown University announced in December plans for 5 miles of mountain bike trails along Sager Creek on the university campus. Construction should start in a week or so, first with flagging the route and then clearing the land. The university trails should be done in time to open in August or September, said Johanna Musgrave, associate director for community relations from the university.
Spurred by summit
Bella Vista broke ground on its 39.1 mile stretch of trails on Jan. 6. City officials hope to be finished by November when the International Mountain Biking Association World Summit is held in Bentonville.
An October announcement for the summit estimated 800 vendors and attendees will headquarter at 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville on Nov. 10-12 for the biannual conference.
A tour of the finished trails is on the agenda for the summit, said Steve Schneider, South Central regional director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Construction of the trails will be featured in a video shown to attendees. They will start to post snippets on the conference website this spring, Schneider said. Other local trails also will be featured.
Slaughter Pen, Blowing Springs, Kessler Mountain and Hobbs State Park will be part of a free ride day. There are plans to showcase another yet unbuilt trail and visit Railyard Bike Park in Rogers.
The International Mountain Biking Association, Crossland Construction and Progressive Trail Design will build segments of the Bella Vista trails.
It is unusual to have three professional trail building companies working in such close quarters, but the three know each other and will bounce ideas off each other, Schneider said.
The trails are not intended just for mountain bikers, said Schneider, who is from Northwest Arkansas. He expects to see dog walkers and hikers on the trails too.
“If you build a trail people will use it,” Schneider said.
Trail development has a domino effect, he said, pointing to plans mapped out across the region. Not all are under construction yet.
“The momentum is incredible,” Schneider said.
The new trails will tie into the Blowing Springs system behind Cooper Elementary.
David Neal, owner of Mojo Cycles, was one of the volunteers who carved out the first section of Blowing Springs trail with shovels, rakes and picks seven years ago. Bella Vista has the terrain for mountain biking, said Neal, a Bella Vista resident.
The winding terrain is perfect for mountain biking. Neal favors what he calls an all-mountain style of riding where he seeks out rocks or roots to hop and takes on steep descents. Once you have mastered one trail there’s the thirst for something more challenging, Neal said.
“It’s like any sport, you want to set goals and achieve them,” he said.
The new trails will have some spots for riders who want to test themselves, like a one-way downhill run built for speed, Schneider said. Most of the trails will be undulating, such as a scenic highway, he said. Switchbacks will keep the paths “flowy” or smooth.
“The potential is extremely cool,” Neal said.
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