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story.lead_photo.caption From back, Rodney James, Mark Lovett and Traci Berry, trails coordinator for Visit Hot Springs, ride Ragnarok trail in the Northwoods Trails System in May 2019. - File photo by Jami Smith of The Sentinel-Record

International Mountain Bicycling Association Trail Solutions will begin construction Monday on the .6-mile bike trail that will traverse through Hot Springs National Park, connecting Pullman Avenue to an existing Northwoods trail, Visit Hot Springs said Wednesday.

The project is being funded through a $104,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation at the recommendation of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton, VHS said in a news release.

"National park properties typically do not allow bike traffic and so this is pretty special in that we'll be one of only 48 National Park System-owned properties that allow bikes within their boundaries," Northwoods Trail Coordinator Traci Berry said Wednesday.

The release said just 47 of 419 NPS-owned properties currently allow mountain biking on select dirt trails within their boundaries. The Pullman Avenue Connector will be accessible by bike or foot traffic only.

Berry noted that all other HSNP trails will remain closed to bike traffic.

"(HSNP's) mission, just like ours, is to create more opportunity for people to get outside and give them more access to outdoor recreation activities and that falls in line with the city's mission ... creating a better quality of life for its residents, and even a much better experience for visitors who are coming to our area," she said.

The purpose of connecting the Northwoods to Pullman Avenue, Berry said, is to increase access to the trails.

"Having Pullman connect to the Northwoods gives more people more access to the trails," she said. "It will allow for a safer and much more user-friendly route from downtown and surrounding communities to the trail system."

"This connector trail will establish a new, safer and convenient way for residents and visitors to gain access to this marvelous resource for Hot Springs," Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said in the release.

"This expansion will continue to improve the Northwoods Trails, which are not only a tremendous economic benefit to the city, but which also enormously enhance the healthy lifestyle and recreational opportunities for all of us. We are tremendously grateful," he said.

The release said existing access to the trails is via a trailhead at the Hot Springs Lakeside Waterworks facility and two trailheads in the Cedar Glades Park area in the neighboring Garland County property.

"It's a tough ride and there's no shoulder or bike lane on that route," Berry said. "There's an incline there, either riding in from downtown, there's a pretty good hill to ride up and over (and) the same thing returning to your home or hotel that's a pretty good climb back up and over that hill. So it's not as user-friendly to all levels of riders like it would be to ride up Park Avenue and then down Pullman, into the trail systems."

The project will take six to seven weeks to complete, depending on weather, Berry said.

"We are really excited and appreciative for the continued investment by the Walton Family Foundation in our efforts to build a world-class mountain biking experience for the residents and visitors of our city," Hot Springs City Manager Bill Burrough said in the release.

"The Pullman Connector Trail will provide the first neighborhood connection to the Northwoods Trails and will benefit not only the residents of the Park Avenue area but also the entire community, providing for an outdoor experience like no other."

"We are excited about this new addition to the trail system in Hot Springs National Park," Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Laura Miller said in the release.

"While we have a long history of hiking and equestrian use of the trails in the park, this will be the first trail to combine hiking and mountain biking within the park boundary," she said.

"The Pullman Avenue Connector Trail will create greater community connectivity between downtown and the city's Northwoods Trail System, and will increase recreational opportunities for our visitors and neighbors alike. We are fortunate to have such a team that includes Visit Hot Springs, the city of Hot Springs, and the Walton Family Foundation who have worked so hard to make this happen," Miller said.

Local on 02/06/2020

Print Headline: Construction starts Monday on Pullman Trail

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