Bella Vista lands $3.9 million Walton grant for trails

by Robin Mero ([email protected]) 2,079 views 

The Walton Family Foundation continues to supertrail the region, announcing Tuesday (Aug. 28) a $3.9 million gift to the city of Bella Vista for construction of 50 miles of new trails and two years of maintenance.

The new trail system will be built to meander through ravines and valleys, between neighborhoods in the central portion of the city, west of U.S. Highway 71. Construction, overseen by NWA Trailblazers, will begin this fall and should be complete by late 2019.

“This is a huge milestone for Bella Vista, as our city will soon be home to [a total of] 100 miles of world-class trails for mountain bikers, hikers, runners, birding enthusiasts, nature lovers and more,”  Mayor Peter Christie said.

With this gift, about 100 of the 250 miles of soft surface trails in Northwest Arkansas will be in Bella Vista.

“We have a lot of land, but it’s primarily hills, valleys and deep ravines … unusable and inaccessible. But it’s perfect for trails,” said Cassi Lapp, communications manager for the city of Bella Vista. “We found with the Back 40 trails, which were built in 2016, that by putting trails in these otherwise unused areas, we were able to reveal aspects of Bella Vista that even people who have lived here for decades knew nothing about – waterfalls, bluffs, expansive rock outcroppings, etc.”

Bella Vista already has two soft-surface trail systems, Blowing Springs and the Back 40 (on the east side of U.S. 71). Both offer natural-surface, multi-use trails that appeal to beginner, intermediate and advanced users. The city’s master trail plan was created in 2015 and this new project will mark the second phase. The host land is POA-owned common property that is being leased by the city for this purpose. The city will lease land for the trail plus 10 feet on either side, Lapp said.

The Walton foundation was an integral part of creating the city’s master trail plan, Lapp said.

“This new trail system falls in line with that and their continuing commitment toward increasing the quality of life in the Northwest Arkansas region,” she said. “It’s no secret Bella Vista is really beautiful, but the trails highlight a new level of that and we are happy to be able to share it and provide residents and visitors a way to access that.”

NWA Trailblazers is a nonprofit organization that’s been developing multi-use and soft surface trails in the region since 1996. The group’s first project was an asphalt trail around Lake Bella Vista. Executive Director Erin Rushing could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.