Governor Hutchinson today announced a $20 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation for the Delta Heritage Trail State Park, a “rails to trails” project currently under development.

The public path for walkers and bikers, which runs along a former railway corridor, will eventually extend more than 84 miles between Lexa and Arkansas City.  To date, more than 44.4 miles of trail have been completed. There are currently eight trailheads at Lexa, Barton, Lick Creek, Lake View, Elaine, Watson, Rohwer, and Arkansas City.

The 50-50 matching grant from the Waltons will allow for the completion of the rest of the trail. The state will also chip in $20 million, but is applying for federal grants to offset that amount. The $40 million total investment will allow the Parks Department to complete the construction of the trail over the next five years, officials said.

“This is great news for cyclists and hikers, who have waited more than 20 years for the completion of this rails-to-trails project,” Hutchinson said in a press release. “The matching grant we announced today, combined with Arkansas Parks and Tourism funds, means that the wait is almost over. The $7 million in tourism that the 85-mile trail will attract, along with the 600 jobs it will create, will infuse renewed energy into southeast Arkansas along the trail. Hikers and bikers will see bottomland hardwood forests and views from the levee that we don’t see from our cars. This is a great project for Arkansas.”

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“The Delta Heritage Trail will connect the region’s expansive natural beauty and create new ways to experience its unique cultural offerings,” said Jim Walton of the Walton Family Foundation in the press release. “This joint effort is a dream nearly 30 years in the making, a bold idea now being realized in a community that, with continued support, can reach its enormous, untapped potential.”

More from Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann:

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Delta Heritage Trail State Park provides a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors. When completed, not only will it cross two major rivers – the White and Arkansas – it also traverses through the Dale Bumpers National Wildlife Refuge that has enormous old-growth cypress trees that will give the visitor a sense of being in a “Jurassic Park” environment. In this area of the refuge, sections of Delta Heritage Trail State Park are elevated, providing an exceptional view of the scenery. Guests will be able to have extraordinary birding and wildlife watching opportunities and may even catch a glimpse of one of the many black bears, which is considered the best genetic representative of the historic bear population that existed in the Lower Mississippi Valley of Arkansas.