Fayetteville voters asked to keep tax, extend trail
FAYETTEVILLE — City officials here are hoping to piggyback off a bond issue that voters overwhelmingly passed 13 years ago. That bond issue was used to help develop the region’s trail system, and it’s hoped that money from a new bond issue would help extend it.
Nearly $6.9 million of the $226 million proposed for capital projects in a forthcoming bond referendum would go toward building about 10 miles of new trails. Voters will be asked April 9 to continue the city’s 1 percent sales tax to pay for the projects.
A $2.1 million bond issue from the 2006 referendum helped build what became the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Greenway, a $38 million, 36-mile trail system that extends from northern Bentonville to south Fayetteville.
That greenway links six downtowns, 23 schools, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus, and several shopping areas, according to the Northwest Arkansas Trails website.
Fayetteville has a five-year trails plan that it updates with recommendations from the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, a mostly resident panel that focuses on sidewalks and trails. About $1.5 million annually is dedicated to the plan, which is enough to build about 2 miles of trail each year.
“The mayor’s committed to continuing that. If the bond passes, then it’s an addition,” Trails Coordinator Matt Mihalevich said. “It’s really going to allow us to get ahead on some of these projects by going above the 2 miles per year of new trail and catch up with some of these more difficult projects.”
The trails projects list basically calls for four major routes and two smaller connections.
Some of the proposed routes go through city right of way, but some easements will have to be negotiated with property owners for several segments, Mihalevich said. Money associated with each project can be used for land acquisition in addition to construction, he said.
About $1.6 million in grants are anticipated for the project from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Walton Family Foundation, he said, raising the total to be available for the projects to about $8.5 million, if the bond measure passes.
Work on some of the projects could begin next year.
The longest trail project would have a continuous, 7½-mile route from Shiloh Drive and Garland Avenue near the Fulbright Expressway south to Kessler Mountain Regional Park.
Trail planners want to build the route in sections, in three separate projects. Estimated cost for all three pieces is more than $2 million.
Several segments along the route were built as development occurred, Mihalevich said.
The trail would connect to other trails along the way, with a bridge proposed over Hamestring Creek.
The state is working on putting a bicycle and pedestrian path along Wedington Drive at the Interstate 49 interchange. The project is still in development, Mihalevich said.
A big reason the city wants to take on the Shiloh trail is because of a new park it acquired. The City Council agreed to buy Centennial Park last year with the intention of turning it into a mountain biking attraction. Trail spurs north and south of the park are included in the bond issue.
The trail also would link Centennial Park to Kessler Mountain Regional Park.
Laura Canter, a member of the Active Transportation Committee, said the Shiloh trail connections stand out to her the most. She lives in the area.
“I have to get in my truck and drive 3 miles to go the grocery store,” she said. “I’m somebody who cycles a lot. Once this is completed, I can get on my bike and do that.”
Another major route would run east-west through the Shiloh Drive trail.
The estimated $2 million project along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and at the interchange would include a trail roundabout. A tunnel would go under King Boulevard to connect to the roundabout.
The south part of Fayetteville is set to get about a 3½-mile trail route.
The most expensive item on the list, about $2.85 million, would extend St. Paul Trail to the Razorback Greenway on the west, past the west fork of the White River, and east to Dead Horse Mountain Road.
The existing St. Paul Trail between Morningside Drive and Armstrong Avenue is the city’s oldest. It was made of asphalt, instead of concrete, and hasn’t held up well as a result, Mihalevich said.
The project would involve replacing 4,180 feet with concrete, making it 12 feet wide and adding lighting.
The new route would begin at the zero point of the Razorback Regional Greenway and reach east all the way to the west fork of the White River. Spurs would connect to Combs and White River parks, and a bridge using the existing concrete base from the railroad would get trailgoers across the river. The project is more expensive than the others because of the bridge, Mihalevich said.
A paddle park is proposed at the Pump Station Dam in the area. That project is part of the parks bond issue.
Steve Frankenberger, another member of the Active Transportation Committee, said he thinks the trail, bridge and paddle park will transform the area and make it a tourist attraction.
“That whole corridor there along the White River is in a floodplain. It’s worthless land,” he said. “I think it could just be beautiful.”