by Tyler Hale
Mountain biking is all the rage in Arkansas, as new trails are being developed throughout the state. The rise of mountain biking trails has grown the state’s tourism footprint and, as a result, its economic prospects.
In a 2018 study commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, biking had a $137 million economic impact on Northwest Arkansas in 2017. The study concluded at 90,000 to 150,000 tourists visited Northwest Arkansas during that year for the biking opportunities, and that 55 percent of the riders on the NWA trails were from out-of-state or residents of other parts of Arkansas other than the northwest region.
But Northwest Arkansas isn’t the only part of the state boasting major trails. There are five world-class Epic Rides mountain biking trails in Arkansas, as well as hundreds of miles of trails.
Now, there will be another significant trail in central Arkansas. Next week, work will commence on the Pullman Avenue Connector Trail in Hot Springs, which is designed to connect the Park Avenue community to the Northwoods Trail System.
The Walton Family Foundation has provided a $104,000 grant to complete the project at the recommendation of Steuart and Tom Walton, according to a news release from Visit Hot Springs.
The project, which measures 0.6 miles of Hot Springs National Park property, will connect to the 16-mile Northwoods Trail System. Once completed, the trail system is expected to encompass 44.6 miles of trails.
“This connector trail will establish a new, safer and convenient way for residents and visitors to gain access to this marvelous resource for Hot Springs,” Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said in a statement. “This expansion will continue to improve the Northwoods Trails, which are not only a tremendous economic benefit to the city, but which also enormously enhance the healthy lifestyle and recreational opportunities for all of us. We are tremendously grateful.”
Work on the connector trail will be performed by IMBA Trail Solutions, an arm of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. IMBA Trail Solutions has two projects in Arkansas, according to its website. These projects include the Arkansas Trail Crew in Bentonville and the Hot Springs Trail Plan.
Traci Berry, the Northwoods Trails coordinator for Visit Hot Springs, says the work will take approximately six to seven weeks.
This is the second major donation that the Walton Family Foundation has made toward outdoor recreation projects recently. The foundation also gave a $20 million matching grant to complete the Delta Heritage Trail in eastern Arkansas.