His­tory of trail dis­cus­sion

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

Since 2007, Bella Vista res­i­dents have had many op­por­tu­ni­ties to talk about trails in the com­mu­nity.

An ameni­ties sur­vey taken in 2007 listed trails as the most de­sired amenity in Bella Vista, ac­cord­ing to a story pub­lished in the Weekly Vista in Fe­bru­ary 2008. By then the city plan­ning com­mis­sion was al­ready work­ing with the POA’s Joint Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on Re­cre­ation to look at adding more trails, what com­mis­sion mem­ber Don Robin­son called, “an elab­o­rate walk­ing trail sys­tem” in the area.

In 2009, vol­un­teers built a half mile of soft sur­face trail in Blow­ing Springs Park. Among the vol­un­teers were mem­bers of Friends of Slaugh­ter Pen Trails, as­so­ci­ated with the brand new mountain bike trail in Ben­tonville.

In 2010, the POA’s Re­cre­ation Com­mit­tee formed a sub­com­mit­tee with mem­bers of city ad­min­is­tra­tion to be­gin work on a mas­ter trail plan. In March of that year when the POA ap­proved $5,000 to help de­sign a mas­ter plan, mem­bers of the board agreed the trails would be open to the pub­lic. Ac­cord­ing to a Weekly Vista story pub­lished on March 24, 2010, open­ing the trails for pub­lic use would limit li­a­bil­ity for the POA be­cause of a state statute on re­cre­ation. At least one board mem­ber com­mented that keep­ing the pub­lic off the trails would also be very dif­fi­cult.

In 2011, there were two pub­lic meet­ings to give mem­bers a chance to talk about the

mas­ter trail plan. Only about 60 peo­ple at­tended, but there were no neg­a­tive comments. Later in 2011, Pro­gres­sive Trail De­sign was con­tracted to build 6.25 miles of trails in Blow­ing Springs. The project was funded by a grant from the Trail Blaz­ers.

Mean­while, POA em­ploy­ees built a 2,200 foot trail at Tiree Park. Since the Tiree Park trail was built with POA funds and didn’t go out­side POA prop­erty, it re­mained pri­vate. The Tiree trail has a sur­face make of wood chips which was not ap­pro­pri­ate for bikes, Park Su­per­in­ten­dent Vern Olsen said.

In Au­gust 2011, an­other pub­lic meeting was held to dis­play a mas­ter trail plan that had been de­vel­oped by the trails sub­com­mit­tee. About 40 mem­bers were present and all seemed to sup­port the plan. The POA board ac­cepted the

Mas­ter plan in Oc­to­ber but in De­cem­ber voted not to fund it.

A story printed on Jan­uary 25, 2012, said that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the trail de­sign firm, Alta Plan­ning and De­sign, was in the area to talk about the eco­nomic growth brought by trails. He said many per­spec­tive home­own­ers are at­tracted by the prox­im­ity of a trail sys­tem and trails also bring in tourists.

Clem Mor­gan, then POA Re­cre­ation Direc­tor, said that trail users are more likely to re­port crimes than to cause them.

Chris Sune­son, then city plan­ning direc­tor, also spoke pos­i­tively about trails in­creas­ing prop­erty val­ues.

In Fe­bru­ary 2013, POA mem­bers learned the re­sult of a pro­fes­sional ameni­ties study funded by the POA board.

“Every­where we went we heard about trails,” Peter O’Toole of GreenPlay, LLC. told a group of about 100 POA mem­bers who gath­ered at Rior­dan Hall to hear his fi­nal re­port. Con­tin­u­ing

to im­ple­ment the mas­ter trail plan is a pri­or­ity, he said.

In 2014, the Bella Vista Foun­da­tion got into the trail busi­ness by fund­ing a pro­fes­sional mas­ter plan. The money came from the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, but was ad­min­is­tered by the lo­cal group. Alta was con­tracted to develop the plan. There were two meeting in Novem­ber, 2014 to give lo­cal res­i­dents a chance to add in­put.

In April, 2015, the mas­ter plan was com­pleted and pre­sented to the res­i­dents in an­other pub­lic meeting as the city be­gan the process of hir­ing a trails co­or­di­na­tor. In Septem­ber of that year, 40 POA mem­bers at­tended a board meeting to sup­port the con­cept of trails when the board ac­cepted the mas­ter plan.

In was at the Septem­ber 2015 board meeting when POA at­tor­ney Doug McCash and Bob Brooks who was then the board chair­man told the board about the li­cens­ing agree­ment that was an in­te­gral part of com­pre­hen­sive

trail sys­tem. The li­cens­ing agree­ment al­lowed the POA to re­tain own­er­ship of the common prop­erty used by the trail sys­tem. The Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion and the city were re­view­ing the doc­u­men­ta­tion. The city of Bella Vista and Cooper Com­mu­ni­ties also for­mally agreed to al­low the trails and trail users on their prop­erty.

When the city ap­proved the plan in Oc­to­ber 2015, work be­gan on the Back 40 with goal to fin­ish by the fol­low­ing sum­mer. In Au­gust 2016, the first sec­tion of the Back 40 opened.

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