Bay Trails bring new outdoor options to Fairfield Bay -RVO

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published May 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 3, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Debbi Brawley pauses during a short hike along a trail in Fairfield Bay. The new Bay Trails, for hiking, biking and horseback riding, will have a ribbon cutting for Phase I — five miles of trail — on Saturday.

Out-of-use back roads in Fairfield Bay are getting fresh use as biking, hiking and horseback-riding trails, thanks to a group of area residents.

Dubbed The Bay Trails, the four-trail system will eventually include a separate horseback-riding trail, along with two five-mile trails and one 20-mile trail, all of which will be free to use.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, a ribbon cutting will be held for the first phase of the project, the Lakewood Mountain Trail for biking and hiking, located at Dave Creek Parkway and Exeter Drive in Fairfield Bay. The five-mile trail is currently open for use, and those attending the ceremony are encouraged to use the trail after the ribbon cutting.

Area resident Debbi Brawley had long thought the Greers Ferry Lake area needed more options for outdoor activities, and when she found out another local resident, John Conry, had a similar thought, the two began discussing the potential of a set of old roads in Fairfield Bay. Conry’s wife, Patsi, had a map of all the unpaved roads in the area, so the group set to work, highlighting the roads that might make good trails. Then the group hiked what would eventually form the first phase of the project, the Lakewood Mountain Trail.

“The beauty of this is that there were really no major costs to the city or the community,” Brawley said.

Since the trails use existing, unpaved roads, there was no need for any clearing. Instead, Brawley and Conry helped place eye-level white flags along the route and arrows to mark major turns. After hearing about the plan in February, the Fairfield Bay Community Club overwhelmingly approved and agreed to help fund the trail markers and a trailhead sign.

“As soon as we can get them marked, the trails are ready to be used,” Brawley said.

Though the roads are still open to vehicle traffic, Brawley said, they are very rarely used. Maps for the trails will soon be available.

Brawley said the trails vary in difficulty with the phase III trail being the least challenging. The Lakewood Mountain Trail includes several elevation changes that could pose a challenge to those new to exercising. Phase II, a 20-mile trail, is the most difficult section, with several significant elevation changes.

“We marked the phase III trail on Sunday, and it was a major surprise,” Brawley said. “There are gorgeous, gorgeous trees, lots of wildlife and some stunning rock formations. There are two creeks wide enough that you’d have to carry your mountain bike across.”

Brawley, an avid hiker and mountain biker, said that before The Bay Trails were developed, the only options for good hiking and biking in the area were near Mountain View, nearly an hour away.

“We have so many people drive up to the lake from Little Rock, and Memphis,” Brawley said. “They do all the lake-related activities, but there’s little to do in the offseason. This is something we can offer when it’s too cold to swim.”

Eventually, Brawley said, a committee will be formed to oversee upkeep of the trails, though they should need little work. Plus, she hopes the trails will ultimately include signs describing landmarks along the way, such as creeks and unusual trees. With the culmination of the project, all four phases of the trails will be linked together.

For more information on the trail system, visit thebaytrails.com.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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