ROGERS -- Trails are just linear parks, said Jim White, director of Rogers Parks and Recreation. They connect residents to outdoor spaces for greater opportunities of fitness and fun.
A view of the new bridge on the Rogers trail system Friday next to West New Hope Road in Rogers. When complete, the project will improve the connection between the Rogers trail system and the Razorback Regional Greenway.
The web of trails in Rogers grew substantially in 2016, and now some trails connect various Rogers parks to each other, too. Trail maintenance will be a Parks and Recreation priority in 2017, White said.
Upcoming Parks and Recreation projects for 2017
• Lake Hebron area and trails
• Renovations to Northwest Park
• Updates to Regional Sports Park
• Greater attention to the quickly growing west side of town
Source: Staff report
An interactive trail map of Northwest Arkansas can be found at https://trails.cast.uark.edu.
"Now trails aren't just recreation; they're transportation," White said. "Trails are another amenity, a place to recreate and take you through other spaces and connect you."
Ten trails were built in Rogers in 2015 and 2016, including most recently the Fox Fire Trail, a 2.23-mile path that runs from New Hope Road to Walnut Street and Bellview Road Trail, which is nearly a mile long. Others are the First Street Trail at two-thirds of a mile, a 1.26-mile trail along Price Lane, the half-mile Pauline Whitaker Trail, another half-mile at J.B. Hunt Drive, nearly 1-mile trails at Pinnacle Hills and Monte Ne Road, a short stint at the Downtown Rogers Farmers Market at First and Cherry Streets, as well as 3.8 miles of hard surface trails and 9.4 miles of mountain biking trails at Lake Atalanta.
"Trails are for recreation, health and supporting [the economy]," said Rick Hightower, who is coming out of semi-retirement to resume a full-time position as trails coordinator. "We now have 48.5 miles of trails in the city."
Fox Fire Trail, which runs parallel to 40th Street, had some challenges in its planning phase for securing appropriate right of way spots, White said. But now that it's completed, the trail connects residential neighborhoods to the Regional Sports Park.
Trails along Railyard Bike Park and Pleasant Ridge make Lake Atalanta Park more accessible with additional locations to park and walk, jog or cycle to the lake. Previously all guests had to drive down the hill for a spot.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday for the opening of a trail bridge at New Hope Road, which is expected to transform a confusing area of the Razorback Greenway.
"When the Greenway was being installed, it used existing sidewalks and trails as much as possible, but in a couple of locations that weren't as nice, they [decided to] come back soon under separate projects" to improve it, said Nathan Becknell, professional engineer for Rogers. "This bridge is one of those."
Studies for the bridge were conducted in 2013. Its location near Interstate 49 required the project to have several extra permits, which were acquired this year.
Its design is a decorative approach with a function, Becknell said. The bridge, which extends over a creek, includes a durable canvas canopy similar to the material of the Wal-Mart AMP and recessed lighting within. It has three paths that are 88 feet, 59 feet and 94 feet long, and it looks like a Y from above.
"It was about how to fix this confusing area, not just doing something simple and cheap," Becknell said. "We put thought into something that's unique and would stand out as a focal point."
Three other trail projects are under construction in Rogers. One creates a trail parallel to Stoney Brook Road that goes through Village on the Creeks and is meant to replace a difficult portion of trail that took riders down a steep hill with consistent vehicle traffic at its base. The new trail avoids that hill and will allow visitors access to the Razorback Greenway, Cross Church, businesses and restaurants, White said. Another creates a trail along Perry Street and ties into the new Bellview Trail. A third, nicknamed the Northern Loop, connects many other trails by creating a path that goes entirely around the city and includes easy access to downtown and Rogers high schools.
"Our long-term plans are trying to get a trail to every school," Hightower said.
Old Wire Elementary School has a large bicycle commuter population and teachers incorporate bikes into the physical education program. Kirksey Middle School, Reagan Elementary and Grace Hill Elementary also have bike programs. It's a good start, but they're hopeful for more in the future, Hightower and White said.
Strengthening the recreation partnership with schools is beneficial for everybody, White said. School playgrounds act as public parks after classes let out, and the combination of resources -- like sharing gym space -- means more kids get to participate in sports. For a city that has 94 youth basketball teams, that's the only way all can play, White said.
More than 269,000 people used the Rogers portion of the Razorback Greenway in 2015. That section saw a user increase in 2016 when it had nearly reached the 2015 number by the end of October. A total of 15 bike racks, made by EcoVet Furniture and donated with funds by the Walton Family Foundation, were installed in October to help keep up with trail demand, and another 10 racks are expected for future installment.
Totals for this year are likely to surpass 300,000 in the city on the Razorback Greenway, Hightower said.
Trail counters are imperfect. They use body heat sensors, so they can only count and not distinguish whether that person has been on the trail earlier the same day, as in the case of a runner doubling back.
It's also difficult to judge the real number of visitors to city trails with only four mobile trail counters, White said, because the counters can only cover a small portion of trail area. However, it does lend helpful information.
"It tells us where to focus maintenance efforts, is useful when we apply for grants and in [determining whether] we're fulfilling our obligations," White said. "It gives us an idea of what's going on and what's needed, or even why an area isn't used as much as others."
NW News on 01/02/2017