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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Workers pour concrete Friday March 4, 2016 along the pedestrian-bicycle trail being built around Lake Atalanta.

The Razorback Greenway is the spine of the trail system, but cities have built their own connections to it, and more are planned as the system changes and grows.

Larger cities and early trail adopters are also looking at adding amenities, such as trailheads or reroutes to existing trails. At the same time, smaller cities are building trails piece by piece, with some still looking for money to accomplish this.

Existing trails

Cities reported 170 miles of completed trails to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission by the end of 2015. In the December report there were:

107.7 miles of shared-use paved trail

143.3 miles of natural surface unpaved trails

14 miles of shared roadway

18 miles of bike lanes

1 mile of protected bike lane

Source: Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission

The new Walter Turnbow Park in Springdale between Emma and Johnson streets will be a gathering place downtown, said Steve Hatfield, Springdale trails coordinator.

A boardwalk was put in last year. This year, Spring Creek will be uncapped north of Shiloh Square and an outdoor amphitheater built, with a path leading from the trail to the water. Businesses are going in across the street, and the space links to the farmers market.

Trails are a park, although a linear one, said Hatfield, a landscape architect.

"It will draw people to it," Hatfield said.

Also new this year is a 5½-mile trail called the Pride of Springdale that will run east to west and connect the two high schools. More than four miles of trail are being designed to provide an alternate southern route from the Jones Center south toward Lake Fayetteville and connect to more neighborhoods east of the current Greenway, Hatfield said.

Rogers trail designers are also looking at aesthetics. A new bridge off New Hope Road, just east of Interstate 49, will move pedestrians off a sidewalk that parallels the road and also be a showpiece, said Nathan Becknell, project engineer. The bridge will run straight from under the northbound on-ramp to a central column, then split.

"It's more than just a bridge," Becknell said.

The city has planned connections from the new bike park, The Railyard, to the new farmers' market location downtown.

A trail around Lake Atalanta is under construction now, but its completion is tied to a road project that will raise Walnut Street so a pedestrian tunnel can run under the road, said Lance Jobe, project engineer. The lake project will include 2,000 feet of boardwalk that will go out on the water.

Last year, the city put in 10 miles of soft-surface trails near Lake Atalanta; this year the focus is on multipurpose paved trails, Jobe said.

'Shine' on Bentonville

In Bentonville, there's a new tunnel under Southeast Walton Boulevard near Medical Center Parkway to keep pedestrian traffic separate from vehicles.

The Razorback Greenway will get a reroute through downtown Bentonville this year to make it better defined, said Troy Galloway, director of community and economic development for Bentonville. The new route will head south from Compton Gardens and run behind the county administration building before crossing Central Avenue near the gazebo.

But there will be a lot of activity on single-track mountain bike trails this year, Galloway said.

"We're definitely trying to put the shine on Bentonville before we host the summit," Galloway said.

Bentonville is prepping for the International Mountain Biking Association World Summit in November. Work related to the summit also extends to Bella Vista, where 30 miles of soft-surface trails are scheduled to be finished before the November conference.

Bentonville has been building trails for 15 years, beginning with the Bentonville/Bella Vista Trailblazers laying the first sections of what became the Razorback Greenway, Galloway said. What started as recreation is beginning to take shape as an alternative to roads.

"The biking system is increasingly being focused on getting people to and from places they want to go," he said.

A 2015 study by Chen Ryan Associates found Northwest Arkansas counties were the fourth highest among counties included in the study in projected number of cyclists with 4.45 per 1,000 people, close to number three San Francisco which had 4.78 cyclists per 1,000 people.

The study estimated 200,000 cyclists use Fayetteville's Scull Creek Trail each year. The study estimated nearly 300,000 pedestrians using either the Frisco Trail in Fayetteville or the Crystal Bridges Trail in Bentonville each year.

The bike traffic volume means businesses are developing near the trails, said Matt Mihalevich, trails coordinator for the city of Fayetteville. Developers of apartments and houses want to be close to the trail system. A trail extension to the city's new regional sports park will let a family park downtown and ride bicycles to a game.

Lake Fayetteville is the northern destination for people who want to bike, walk or run in Fayetteville, Mihalevich said. Now Kessler Mountain, with the sports park at its base, will become the southern destination, he said. The trails on the mountain won't be complete this year, but the southern extension of the Razorback Greenway from Town Branch Loop south toward Kessler Mountain will.

Further extensions

More than just connecting Fayetteville, the southern extension brings hope to small towns south of Fayetteville that they can tap into the trail's benefits.

Greenland is about a mile from the Greenway, said Gary Ricker, police chief, who also writes many grant requests. The city got a $100,000 grant last year from the Blue & You Foundation and built trails and improved parks in town. An exercise station with a place for chin-ups and a balance beam was part of the grant.

Razorback Road turns in to Arkansas 265 before it passes through Greenland, and that is still open for business or residential development, Ricker said. The trail system will be another connector.

"I've got high hopes for it, but what'll come of it, who knows?" he said.

Charlie Rosetti, mayor of West Fork, south of Greenland, said he hopes his city someday gets a trail connection to other cities, too.

Cyclists come through regularly now, down U.S. 71 and across the White River. They may be on their way to Devil's Den State Park or south to Winslow, Rosetti said.

Last year he got three grants for the city -- for sidewalk connections, street improvements, and a sidewalk and street extension that links Riverside Park to the city's downtown with West Fork's post office, bank, library and schools.

A missing piece to the city's park was a bridge to parallel Main Street as it crosses the West Fork of the White River.

Rosetti ironed out an agreement to adopt the nearly 100-year-old Woolsey Bridge, a few miles away, when it was retired from use for vehicular traffic. Once it is taken down, the city will store it until the bridge can be refurbished and installed parallel to Main Street.

Some connections are harder than others to make.

It would take about 4 miles of trail to connect the city of Pea Ridge and the Pea Ridge National Military Park, said Mayor Jackie Crabtree. The plans are drawn up, but city money can't be used to build trail sections outside city limits.

"It's gonna be a long way down the road," Crabtree said of the planned project.

It isn't that the demand doesn't exist. Bentonville bicyclists once used Arkansas 72 to Lee Town Road for time trials, Crabtree said.

In Greenland, Ricker said some in-town trail connections may have to be on a "share the road" basis. He's looking for grants, but planning and building trails is a process.

"It'll just have to be done in pieces and parts at a time," Ricker said. "That's just how it is in small towns."

NW News on 03/27/2016

Print Headline: Trails continue to grow in Northwest Arkansas

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