A 300-acre venue now in development in Bentonville hopes to capitalize on the momentum of the region’s growing reputation as a mountain biking and public recreation destination.
Tom Walton, a grandson of Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton and Home Region program committee chair for the Walton Family Foundation, made a formal introduction recently of the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. It is situated only about a mile west of the city’s downtown square, described by foundation officials as about a five-minute bike ride.
“Coler will provide a singular experience where cyclists can get a taste of almost every type of trail the region offers, nestled within its 300 acres,” Walton wrote in an email announcing the project. “The preserve will also be a tranquil environment to feel revitalized and where each person, regardless of age or ability, can participate in active recreation.”
Construction is under way to add trails, greenways, a café, tent and hammock camping sites to the existing mountain bike trails.
In a recent interview with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Jeremy Pate, a program officer for the foundation’s Home Region initiatives, said Coler represents a microcosm of all the things going on in Northwest Arkansas.
“It allows for individuals to ride a bike, to camp, hike, practice yoga; it’s really a culmination of a lot of different things happening in our region,” Pate said. “There’s water quality work going on to improve some wetlands and improve the water quality in the creek. It’s definitely building on momentum.”
Coler already includes 16 total miles of flow, cross-country, rock, dual slalom and flyover trails, as well as jump features, culminating at a hub at the top of a mountain. From the hub, bikers can choose their route based on level of difficulty to challenge themselves or hone their skills with each ride.
Pate said the quality of amenities that will be added over the next several months will raise the bar among the mountain biking community as a whole. Plans include building 25 tent and camping websites, and new paved paths for both transportation and recreational experiences. Coler will also include two renovated open-air barns for small group events, and public art installations and live music will also be a draw.
“When you combine all the assets for mountain biking with camping and other amenities, not a lot of places have that,” he said. “The barn experience will be unique, we think. All of those things pulled together is really going to provide a national level experience.”
Coler will also feature a café with scenic overlook, multiuse pavilions and the Berm, a hillside building at the intersection of the preserve’s trails
Construction is expected to last up to a year before Coler is fully built out. Pate said the mountain biking community is already familiar with Coler as the primary site of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) World Summit two years ago.
“It’s been opening in phases since then,” he said. “By the end of next year we hope to have the entire park open to the public. You’ll see the trailheads and greenway trails under construction. If you are visiting to ride the mountain bike trails or go hiking right now, you’re going to see some of that [construction] activity.”
Pate said Coler will build on the momentum of other recreational projects backed by the foundation. The nonprofit gave $3.9 million last month to the city of Bella Vista for construction of 50 miles of new trails, and it invested in building the largest bicycle pump track in the U.S. at the Jones Center in Springdale.
Earlier this year the foundation released a series of studies that said cycling contributed $137 million to the Northwest Arkansas economy in 2017.
You can watch Pate’s entire interview below.