Citizens’ campaign promotes trail funding bill in Arkansas
By Terry Eastin, Executive Director
THERE IS NO DOUBT THE VISIBILITY of hosting the National Trails Symposium in Little Rock has helped ignite a wave of enthusiasm for trails and trail development in Arkansans. One result is proposed legislation to establish a $2 million permanent annual trail grant fund.
In February 2008, a group of dedicated professionals and legislators began writing the proposed Bill in preparation for the 2009 Legislative Session. To learn more about existing funding programs, we contacted state trail administrators from across the country.
An internet-based letter writing campaign was initiated with a goal of receiving 100 letters of support from mayors, judges, business professionals, trail advocates, physicians, bankers, realtors, ministers, and many others. As Arkansans responded with vigor and dedication, we received 153 letters. They included 15 mayors of cities and towns who indicated they were requesting more trail funding based not just on recreation, but on economic development, improving health and wellness, and preserving the quality of life in our towns, large and small.
On August 12, 2008, several members of the House of Representatives and I met with Governor Mike Beebe. We delivered a 26-page economic report along with the letters of support. Many of the case studies used were found in the American Trails resources section of their website at www.americantrails.org. The Governor was very interested and optimistic, but noncommittal. He requested two weeks to review the materials and then to meet again with the Bill’s primary champion, Rep. Robert Moore.
The City of Fayetteville, Arkansas, officially opened the 4.4-mile long Scull Creek Trail on October 18th, 2008 after over 30 years of citizen support and planning efforts. The Scull Creek corridor was identified early on as an ideal location for a trail due to its central location and connectivity to numerous parks, residences, businesses, and the University of Arkansas.
The Fayetteville Alternative Transportation and Trails (FATT) Master Plan identifies Scull Creek Trail as the “backbone” of the 129-mile planned trail system. Scull Creek Trail connects to the already-completed Mud Creek Trail— creating a continuous 6.3-mile trail in this expanding trail system.
Scull Creek Trail was constructed by the City of Fayetteville’s in-house trails construction crew. This unique method of constructing trails has proven to be very efficient and cost effective. The 9-member construction crew works exclusively on constructing trails under the design guidance of the City’s Trails Coordinator. Since the creation of the trails construction crew in 2005, over 10 miles of multi-use trails have been built in Fayetteville. Scull Creek Trail offers a number of amenities: With a 12-foot wide paved surface, the trail accommodates the high number of users— ranging from alternative-transportation commuters to a variety of recreational users.
While closely aligning with Scull Creek, the trail crosses the creek at six locations with arching, weathering-steel, pedestrian bridges. Most of the creek corridor is lined with mature trees—providing shade and an enhanced experience along the trail. Lighting has also been included along most of Scull Creek Trail—increasing safety along the trail and extending the hours of trail use, especially in the mild winter months. Complete lighting installation will continue into 2009.
In Fayetteville, Alternative transportation is the driving force behind the rapid construction of trails. The goal of the FATT plan is to establish alternative modes of transportation and active recreation as an integral part of daily life. With the progressive design-construction model for trail installation, and with strong citizen support, the City of Fayetteville is well on the way to creating an extensive trail system for effective alternative transportation.
For more information about Fayetteville’s trails system, visit http://trails.accessfayetteville.org.
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Updated January 2, 2009