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Central Arkansans are stepping forward in their efforts to make a trail from Little Rock to Hot Springs a reality, hoping to complete it within the next three years.

The Southwest Trail will cost an estimated $42 million, said Wallace Smith, the director of federal services and vice president of Garver, the engineering firm that is designing it.

The project has relied on a mix of grants and money from Garland, Pulaski and Saline counties, all of which the trail crosses, according to Darryl Mahoney, the county judge of Garland County.

The county judges expect the nearly 60-mile-long trail to be a financially lucrative investment.

Smith noted that the Razorback Greenway, a trail system that spans Northwest Arkansas, has become a financial boon to the involved communities.

Three studies from the Walton Family Foundation, which helped create the trail, stated that the Greenway provided $137 million to Northwest Arkansas in 2017.

Mahoney said the trail from Little Rock to Hot Springs will bring a healthy group of people to the area and allow easy access to central Arkansans.

"The biggest thing is quality of life for people involved," Mahoney said.

Garver employees worked on sections of the Razorback Greenway and note it as the state's only trail comparable to the planned Southwest Trail.

Currently, the firm is working to conduct an assessment, showing how the trail will affect environmental factors in its anticipated habitat, including the impact on wetlands, American Indian artifacts, endangered species and property owners, Smith said.

After Garver employees complete this assessment, the federal government will have to approve it, clearing the way for them to begin the trail's design process.

Smith said he hopes to get this approval by the end of October.

While working on the design, Garver engineers will determine whether the trail should be made of asphalt or concrete, where people will access and exit the trail and the width of the trail, among additional decisions.

This should take approximately a year, putting the construction start date at roughly October 2020 with construction lasting about 12 to 18 months.

Officials are still looking for grants and private donations to reach this point.

Jeff Arey, the county judge of Saline County, said the idea to create the trail stemmed from discussions among the county judges at that time several years ago.

But the Southwest Trail was around as a horse trail back in the mid-1800s.

Smith said of this historical detail, he is "literally talking about horses and wagons, St. Louis to Texas."

Smith said the group has come a long way to re-establish the historic trail.

"This is much more of a reality today" than it was when the county judges initially began discussing the trail, Smith said.

Metro on 06/10/2019

Print Headline: Trail between Little Rock, Hot Springs proposed for debut by 2022


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  • eaglescout
    June 10, 2019 at 7:24 a.m.

    The Southwest Trail will cost an estimated $42 million, said Wallace Smith, the director of federal services and vice president of Garver, the engineering firm that is designing it. The county judges expect the nearly 60-mile-long trail to be a financially lucrative investment.
    We need to keep this in mind when the counties start whining about not having money for regular road maintenance. Can we follow this and be notified when the 42 million investment becomes "financially lucrative"?

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    June 10, 2019 at 8:28 a.m.

    Have yall even seen Hot Springs lately?
    yall just feeding the rich like you do in bentonville.

  • malice06220956
    June 10, 2019 at 9:13 a.m.

    Michigan has been doing this for years with old railroad right of ways and it is a biker's paradise. Don't listener to the complainers below - we're becoming a mecca for serious cyclists!

  • Jfish1
    June 10, 2019 at 10:01 a.m.

    Agree with Malice, the highways from LR to Hot Springs have been widened, let's invest in some quality of life things rather than another big box store shopping mall or wider highways.

  • williamrollins
    June 10, 2019 at 10:38 a.m.

    In Michigan, you can ride your snow mobiles. Brings in a lot of money for retailers selling snow machines as well as the revenue from registrations.
    Do a google search of "What is the average cost of a bike trail per mile in the US". Take a look, nowhere is the cost $700,000 per mile! What business will spring up along this trail to generate revenue to offset the cost?
    Most "Grant Money" comes from what? Taxes! Just my 2 cents.

  • millerrobinson
    June 10, 2019 at 11:55 a.m.

    Washington and Benton Counties attract cyclists year-round due to the Razorback Greenway. They stay in local hotels, dine at local restaurants, and shop in the local retail stores.

    The Great American Rail-Trail has already linked 12 states with bike trails along old railroad tracks from Washington DC to Washington State. We are looking forward to Southwest Trail, we only wish it could be completed sooner.

  • GeneralMac
    June 10, 2019 at 12:42 p.m.

    A positive is it will divert some bikers from highways to trail.

    The less arrogant bikers on roads, the better 1

  • Jfish
    June 10, 2019 at 2:59 p.m.

    Oh yeah gmac, those arrogant cyclists are a lot worse than those monster truck drivers on the way to Home Depot or the local Sizzler.

  • NoUserName
    June 10, 2019 at 8:54 p.m.

    The projected economic benefit is, for the most part, a rectal reach since the majority of it is expected 'heath benefits' from people biking on the trail. Except the people who will use it are probably already bikers which will negate the projected benefit because they already have it.
    As for the trail, I'd rather have a trail than some idiot slowing traffic on either a) a 50+ mph road or on a 2 lane <25 mph road. Though I'm inclined to think Little Rock being one of the most dangerous cities per capita will have a larger effect on so-called quality of life than will a bike trail. And of all the things the county needs to pay for, a bike trail is pretty low on the list.

  • GeneralMac
    June 10, 2019 at 9:09 p.m.

    JFISH.....if those scooters buzz too close by me when I'm walking on a street, they run the risk of getting drop kicked out into the road.

    If a cyclist buzzes too close to me when I'm on the road, they run the risk of being sidedswiped by my 3/4 ton Black Dodge with brush guard on front.