The Walton Family Foundation has decided to continue to support Hot Springs' Northwoods Trails System project with a $450,000 grant to improve the trails at Cedar Glades Park, Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said Tuesday.
The grant will allow the International Mountain Bicycling Association, which has been constructing the Northwoods Trails System, to continue to build trails that will be accessible to riders staying in downtown Hot Springs.
"They gave us a grant of $450,000 to continue to build world-class trails in the Northwoods and these funds will be used to improve the trails in Cedar Glades," Arrison told The Sentinel-Record Tuesday. The Walton Family Foundation is working with IMBA on what improvements will be made, he added.
"It's really exciting news for us that Tom Walton and Steuart Walton are continuing to support our trail system. It's just great news for us," he said.
Arrison said the Cedar Glades trails are intertwined with the Northwoods system, and the cooperation between Visit Hot Springs, the city of Hot Springs and Garland County continues to be a good relationship striving for a common goal.
"We all work together. We've got a great relationship, the city and county," he said. "Our bike czar, Traci (Berry), working with A.J. Johnson over running Cedar Glades, it's a great relationship. We're just real excited that Tom Walton and Steuart Walton are continuing to support us and that they do see us as an asset in their mission to have Arkansas as the most recognized mountain bike destination in the world.
"It's great. If you ask me, there is no match. We have committed to both Tom and Steuart and to the Walton Family Foundation that we will maintain our trails in a first-class manner and we're committed to that. It's just great news as we continue to improve."
Arrison said he is hopeful that, in the foreseeable future, more miles will be added to the Northwoods system, but this grant will allow IMBA "to just move right over and start, hopefully, on this new project when they work the details out."
Another component of the system is the Pullman Avenue Trail Connection, which Hot Springs National Park hosted a public open house to discuss on Feb. 13. A public comment period on the proposal to allow mountain biking on a trail segment in the national park closed on Feb. 15.
"Pullman Avenue is another (project) where we've had wonderful cooperation with Superintendent (Laura) Miller and her staff," Arrison said. "Hopefully we can see the end in sight where we will receive that permission and have a great entrance to the Northwoods right off of downtown from Pullman Avenue."
Since the grand opening of the first 7-mile section of Northwoods Trails in November 2018, Arrison said the response has been more than he had anticipated.
"We just had our first real event out there this past weekend with 300 riders from all around -- not just local riders, but from out of town participating in the Enduro that was very successful this weekend," he said.
"I have been just pleasantly surprised by the amount of out-of-town riders that the Northwoods is attracting and what really puts a smile on my face is that we're not even to the summertime yet. We've had all this rain, yet mountain bikers continue to flock to the Northwoods. Another thing that's surprised me is the amount of hikers. Not all the trails are just strictly for mountain bikes, but the amount of hikers that have come out and taken the opportunity to hike the area has been fantastic, as well."
The total cost of the first phase of the Northwoods project is $1,299,975, with half the cost -- $648,421 -- funded through a matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The trail system's opening is the culmination of several years of cooperation between Hot Springs, Steuart and Tom Walton, and the Walton Family Foundation.
"We are thankful to Tom Walton and Steuart Walton and the Walton Family Foundation for their support," Arrison said. "We wouldn't be here without them and hopefully we continue to help them make Arkansas the premiere destination, not only in the United States, but in the world, when it comes to mountain biking."
Local on 02/20/2019