A new 28-mile network of walking and biking trails will soon open in central Arkansas thanks to a partnership between state and local parks departments and a philanthropic organization.
State and city officials announced the network of trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park and River Mountain and Two Rivers parks at a news conference Wednesday. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the system will serve as an inclusive space for residents to get outdoors.
“People are now utilizing that increased growth of 153%, utilizing outdoors, across this nation. And one of the greatest assets that the city of Little Rock has is its quality of life and place as relates to our natural beauty, as it relates to our parks and trails system that we have right now,” Scott said.
The system includes 14 miles of trails already open to visitors at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, as well as soon-to-be constructed paths at River Mountain and Two Rivers parks in Little Rock. Ward 4 City Director Capi Peck hailed the announcement as a boost to quality-of-life for residents, and as a potential draw for tourists.
“National bike tourism represents something like $83 billion in trip related spending, so we want people to come in here and experience our trails. And the River Mountain system is going to be on every serious mountain biker’s radars,” Peck said. “Tourists on two wheels, they spent more than 40% more than a motorist tourist does just because they're around longer.”
The network was created from a partnership between Arkansas State Parks, the state Department of Parks, Heritage and tourism, the City of Little Rock and the Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation with $2.6 million in support from the Walton Family Foundation. Peck said the city is hopeful the new trail network will boost tourism revenue which has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These are the kind of tourists we want. We love these temporary taxpayers. They sleep here, they eat here, they shop here, they support our local economy and then they go home. And we love that,” Peck said. “82% of touring cyclists have a college degree, 52 is the average age, 58% make over $75,000 and 8% are international tourists.”
An additional five miles of trails will be added at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in the next few months, which will be accessible from River Mountain and Two Rivers parks by a shared lane on Pinnacle Valley Road. Construction is set to begin in December, with a planned opening in May 2021.