Trail construction starts
Officials from the city and POA came together with trail builders and advocates to carve the very first bit of Bella Vista’s new trails — now named 11 Under — near the Lake Avalon Beach.
An estimated 100 people showed up to see the groundbreaking.
“What a great day,” Mayor Peter Christie said.
He was impressed not only with the crowd but the diversity in it, he said. There were older retirees and younger families alike, he said.
Erin Rushing, director of NWA Trailblazers, said he saw roughly twice as many people as he expected.
“It makes me really happy,” he said.
Rushing explained the freshly-selected name is a reference to the in-progress trails’ signature feature: 11 tunnels running beneath roadways to keep riders and traffic separate. But it’s also a nod to the city’s golfing heritage, he said.
Construction is expected to start this week, he explained, with Rogue Trails handling the portions north of Arkansas Highway 340 and Rock Solid Contracting building the portions south of the state highway.
In addition to cutting trails, he said, trail builders are using the conceptual map as a guide while they flag where the trails are going to be built.
They’ll be deciding “what rock it goes by, what tree it goes around,” Rushing said. “These guys are artists.”
The final product is not likely to match the conceptual plan entirely, he said, because what’s feasible to build may prove different from the proposal.
Phil Penny, owner of Rogue trails, said he’s excited for what’s to come.
“Lots of good stuff in there that we’ve found so far,” he said.
Penny said his firm might have its portion done in less than a year.
But with so much trail going in, some are hoping for a job.
Hayden Hess, a trail builder with another firm, said he hopes to get a chance to carve some of the 11 Under trails.
“Probably be some work for everybody out there,” he said. “I’m excited.”
And outside of work, Hess rides and has high hopes for the trail system. He’s traveled to ride, he said, and hasn’t seen many areas with Arkansas’ mix of technical and flowy riding.
“The trails around here are top notch,” he said.
In addition to riding, the trails will be open to hiking.
Bella Vista resident Ann Dahlke said she lives by Blowing Springs and enjoys walking in the woods — and she’s been doing it longer than there have been public trails.
“When we first came down here, we made our own trails down by the bluff,” she said.
Dahlke said the trails are a great addition to the city and she’s excited to see more being built.
“I think it’s a great improvement,” she said.
Tom Judson, left in the front row and holding a shovel, hefts some dirt alongside NWA Trailblazers director Erin Rushing, Mayor Peter Christie and Walton Family Foundation program officer Gary Vernon while officials, trail builders, trail advocates and enthusiasts stand behind them at the 11 Under groundbreaking last Friday, Sept. 14, during which the first bit of trail was cut into the ground.
After the trail groundbreaking, city officials, POA officials, trail builders, trail advocates and others met at the Bella Vista Bar and Grill to mingle and discuss the project.