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PEA RIDGE -- A bike and hike trail put on the shelf for a couple of years is on again at Pea Ridge.

Baker Hayes Park, an 8-acre park given to the city in 2004 by developers Gene Baker and Tom Hayes, is underutilized according to city officials and trail visionaries. The park is off Greer Street adjacent to the Battlefield subdivision. The concept for a bike and hike trail was approved by the city council in 2018, but nothing happened to make the trail a reality.

Now, Josh Johnson is reigniting the vision.

"Right now, as Pea Ridge is growing" is the best time to plan and build trails, said Johnson, who is a teacher and cyclist. "While we're growing, we need to put in trails because we can't do it after the fact."

Johnson said the definition of a small town is to be able to ride a bicycle around the community. The lack of sidewalks and trails means residents are isolated, he said.

"There can be two subdivisions that don't connect. The only way is to put yourself on the highway and put yourself in harm's way," he said. "We're trying to find ways to increase the small town atmosphere so people can get on bikes and ride to parks, get out and explore."

The concept for the trail at Baker Hayes Park was started by Anya Bruhin, former teacher and cycling coach at Pea Ridge, working with Brannon Pack, former executive director of Ozark Off Road Cyclists.

Bruhin moved away. Pack took another job. That left a void of people knowledgeable about the project.

"I've been filling in Anya's shoes. She was in charge of the team," Johnson said. Keln Taylor and he are now co-conspirators for bike things in Pea Ridge, he said.

Johnson said he has received great support from city leaders, especially Mayor Jackie Crabtree and Nathan See, street superintendent.

"I was more prepared for resistance. I wasn't prepared for initial success," he laughed."What's holding us back right now is that we can't get people together to work on the trails" because covid-19 restrictions, Johnson said.

The mayor and city have plans in place, and he's spoken with local nonprofits about funding, Johnson said.

"We don't have enough land allocated for projects. If we can get more land, get more funding, it's sort of a Catch-22. Essentially, what the city needs is people knowledgeable about the bike scene and contacts there. That's what Keln and I provide," Johnson said.

Johnson said he, Taylor and the mayor have a vision for connecting the trails of Northwest Arkansas to the Pea Ridge National Military Park and eventually all the way to Eureka Springs.

As for the Baker Hayes Park trail, Johnson said the one-half-mile trail could easily be prepared by volunteers clearing brush and vegetation, placing orange flags, spraying grass killer. He said some of the trail can be built without using machinery.

Sports on 05/26/2020

Print Headline: Pea Ridge trail sees progress

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