Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Collaboration of Regional Trail Initiatives summit in Bentonville, Arkansas. In addition to the workshops where each organization got to present on its regional trail network and collaborate on the best way to work together going forward, we also had the opportunity to participate in several mobile workshops, most notably the tour of the Razorback Regional Greenway.
While not nearly as extensive as the Philadelphia region’s Circuit Trails network, the Razorback is a trail built to a platinum & diamonds standard. Running from Fayetteville north through Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas, the trail is chock full of amenities that would make any trail enthusiast drool:
- A stream daylighting project that singlehandedly spurred millions of dollars of new development in Springdale, a town that as recently as five years ago was full of boarded up storefronts.
- Tunnels under nearly every high-stress road crossing.
- Wayfinding markings built into the trail at every road intersection or trail junction.
- Beautiful signage throughout.
- Lovely bridges over every stream crossing.
- The highest-quality push-button road crossing signal I’ve ever seen, complete with well designed aids for hearing and visually impaired trail users.
- The entire network is made of concrete: no asphalt getting buckled by tree roots.
- The concrete multiuse trail connects to over 100 miles of world-class mountain bike trails, which include features like stone paved switchbacks.
What makes all of this possible? In a word, Wal-Mart. You read that correctly: Wal-Mart.
Bentonville is the international retailer’s world headquarters, and also home to the Walton Family Foundation, which provided over 40 percent of the funding for the Razorback Regional Greenway. The Foundation also has dedicated bike/ped planning staff, and gives wide leeway to consultants to negotiate land purchases with property owners.
For those of you thinking “Well that’s fine for them; I wish we had that Wal-Mart money,” it’s not just a matter of money. The Circuit Trails is generously supported by the William Penn Foundation to the tune of millions of dollars per year. A more relevant difference seems to be municipal and county buy in.
There is significant political will in Northwest Arkansas to build, maintain, and expand upon the region’s trail network. This is the kind of political enthusiasm we are working to build in the Philadelphia region.
To view the complete album from my trip, click here.
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