Fort Smith may acquire 330 acres near downtown for trails

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,946 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors agreed to consider the purchase of 330 acres from Kansas City Southern Railroad Company for soft surface trails. The Board on Tuesday (Nov. 13) discussed the purchase of the land between the Arkansas River and Riverfront Drive for $103,941.

The land would be used for soft surface trails for running, walking, mountain bike and potentially bridle paths. A vote on the deal could come at the Board’s next regular meeting Nov. 20.

“Soft surface trails utilize the natural surface of the land as opposed to a paved trail. These trails are inexpensive and can be developed much faster than a paved trail,” stated a memo from Doug Reinert, Fort Smith director of parks and recreation, to Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken that was included in board materials for the study session.

Funds for the purchase will come from the Trails and Greenways allocation for FY 2019 within the 1/8% Sales and Use Tax Program, the memo stated.

“Volunteers have already committed to cutting, preparing and maintaining the trails. With this promise from volunteers, the Parks Department will not have to be involved in maintaining the trails, and the cost to the city will only be the purchase cost,” Reinert told directors at the meeting.

“We’re taking a piece of land that has no use whatsoever right now, and with volunteers doing the work I think this is a great investment for the city and great location for us,” said Mike Lorenz, Ward 3 director.

Lap Bui with Frontier Ozark Off-Road Cyclist (FOORC), one of the volunteer groups that would help with construction and maintenance of the trails, said the plan for the trails involves steps, the first of which would be to acquire the land.

“We’ll want an evaluation of what is required of the land, environment impact, things like that,” he said.

Once that is completed, the plan is to develop a master plan for the acreages, which would include what type of features to include and how many miles of trails there would be.

“Once that’s done, we can look at how volunteers can interact and create the trails. We can use the master plan to an estimate of the cost and look at maybe getting bids if we want to use professional trail builders,” Bui said.

The trails will be multiuse soft service trails for hikers, runners, walkers and cyclists, he added.

“We might look at doing some boardwalks or other type of elevated trails that are not available in this area for cycling,” Bui said.