Just weeks after the Pinnacle Mountain State Park Monument Trails opened, a group of public and private leaders has announced a broader trail network that will connect Little Rock parks with the Pinnacle trails. The entire, $2.6 million system of soft-surface, multi-use trails specially designed for mountain bikers will eventually cover 28 miles.
The public-private partnership behind the trail expansion, announced today, includes Arkansas State Parks, the city of Little Rock, the Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. The new trails will be built in Little Rock’s River Mountain and Two Rivers parks. The project is a roughly $636,000 design-build work that will be helmed by Rock Solid Trail Contracting, a Michigan-based company that’s done a lot of work in Arkansas, including at the Mount Nebo State Park Monument Trails.
Suzanne Grobmyer, executive director of the Parks and Recreation Foundation, said she expects about 2 miles to be built in Two Rivers Park and around 8 miles in River Mountain Park, which now has a natural 2.9-mile hiking trail accessed from the road into Two Rivers. The latter will include some cross-country routes along with several downhill “gravity” trails. The downhill trails will take advantage of 300 feet of elevation change in the park. At Two Rivers, the plans call for creating a short skills trail for kids who are learning to ride along with a “gateway” section through park’s pine trees.
The first phase of the Pinnacle Monument Trails opened in early October. In terms of mountain biking trails, there’s nothing else like it in the Little Rock area. It’s already getting heavy traffic from riders from Little Rock and beyond, according to Grobmyer and Joe Jacobs, marketing and revenue manager for Arkansas State Parks. So far there are 13 miles of trail open, all situated between Pinnacle Valley Road and the Little Maumelle River, near the park’s visitor’s center on what’s known as Middle Mountain. Another 5 miles are under construction. The cost for that project is around $2 million. A bike lane on Pinnacle Valley Road (officially part of the Arkansas River Trail) connects Two Rivers Park to the Pinnacle trails.
The Parks & Recreation Foundation was launched in 2017 with a $310,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Thus far, its major projects have been the development of Monument Trails at Hobbs, Mount Nebo and Pinnacle state parks. All are mostly multi-use trails designed specifically for mountain bikers. The foundation previously worked with the city of Little Rock to develop the Allsopp Park North Gateway Project in the Heights, which it accomplished through private fundraising, Grobmyer said.
The Walton Family Foundation has spent more than $74 million building hundreds of miles of bicycle trails in Northwest Arkansas. The grant to the Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation, along with significant funding toward the Northwoods Trails in Hot Springs and a $20 million grant to complete the Delta Heritage Trail all suggest that the foundation, led by mountain biking devotees Tom and Steuart Walton, is turning its sights to the whole state. Might other partnerships between the Parks & Rec Foundation (largely a Walton-funded nonprofit) and the city of Little Rock be in the offing?
“I think it’s something we’re looking at,” Grobmyer, a Little Rock resident, said. The foundation and city spent months working with the Walton Heights neighborhood to get buy-in for the River Mountain Park trails. She said it would be important to make sure other neighborhoods were involved and the fit was good before the foundation moved forward on other projects.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said at the press conference announcing the project that visitors to Little Rock’s parks reflect the city “at its best, all of its diversity; you see all races, genders .. you see any and everyone on the socioeconomic scale.” He said building these trails will spur economic development that will help the city emerge from the pandemic.
Ward 4 City Director Capi Peck said she believed that these trails would bring “two-wheel” tourists to Little Rock. “We love these temporary taxpayers,” she said. “… That means heads in beds and butts in seats. They eat here, they shop here, they sleep here — they support the local economy and then they go home. We love that.”
Gary Vernon, Walton Family Foundation program officer, said, “It’s been proven around the state that if you build trails, people will come. But what’s even more exciting is that, if you build it, then local citizens become active. I’m excited to see Little Rock become this location that’s going to become a destination.”
Stacy Hurst, secretary of the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said the tourism division would be promoting these trails to out-of-town visitors.