A new 10-mile trail system for cycling, running and hiking is now open in Little Rock, further enhancing a network of trails that local leaders say has helped provide a high quality of life for residents and made the city a destination for cyclists.
A dedication ceremony was held Thursday at River Mountain Park, which is along the Arkansas and Little Maumelle rivers. The new trail system is the first to be professionally built in the city and features trails with varying degrees of difficulty for beginners and seasoned cyclists.
“With this new addition of mountain biking, this area is one of the most exciting spots in the state for outdoor recreation,” said Suzanne Grobmyer, executive director of the nonprofit Arkansas Parks and Tourism Foundation. “All of this happened because of the City of Little Rock Parks' vision, the mayor’s commitment to quality of life in our community; add a visionary philanthropic family with a commitment to our state who want to provide access and opportunity for people, big things happen.”
$2.6 million in grants from the Walton Family Foundation covered the cost of building this and the recently-opened Monument Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Gary Vernon with the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group said the goal is to get people physically active, especially at young ages, to start a lifetime of fitness.
“It’s really important to make sure we focus on our kids and get them excited about getting outdoors, getting on bicycles, getting on trails, because there’s a lot of competition to keep them inside with screens, videogames and all that. The true competition is that experience of flying on a bicycle through the woods on a downhill trail,” Vernon said.
In addition to health benefits, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the network of trails, linked to the Arkansas River Trail, are providing a major economic boost for the region.
“This is not only about quality of life, this is about economics. Parks and trails are the new economic development model,” Scott said. “So, this is a big day and more is to come.”
Plans are being made for trails in Boyle Park, Allsopp Park North and Western Hills Park, as well as linking seven Little Rock parks via the Tri-Creek Greenway.
Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, said more than 33,000 riders have been on the recently-opened Monuments Trails and she expects this new one to be even more popular.
“That proves that Little Rock residents and visitors alike are eager to use these assets and they’re coming to our community to experience them,” Hall said.
A celebration of the new trails at River Mountain Park will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring food trucks, beer, local vendors and giveaways. Parking is available at the neighboring Two Rivers Park.