ArcBest, FCRA, ACHE partner on Chaffee Crossing trail extension

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,772 views 

image courtesy of ArcBest

In celebration of ArcBest’s 100th anniversary this year, the Fort Smith-based shipping and logistics company is partnering with Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) and Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) to build new trails in Chaffee Crossing.

The private-public partnership of new trails will include two segments totaling approximately two miles that will connect the ArcBest headquarters to Celebration Garden and Wellness Park on the ACHE campus and the Chaffee Crossing Historic and Entertainment District, according to the FCRA. The new trails will ultimately join bike lanes to be constructed by Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) along the new Highway 255 corridor (Frontier Road) to create a continuous loop.

“These additions will extend the Chaffee Crossing and interconnection with the Ben Geren Trail System to nearly 40 miles of multi-use, nature, and mountain biking trails for the public to enjoy,” the news release said.

“Our desire is to support quality of place for our current and future employees and their families. An active mobility trail infrastructure is a key regional resource that we want to see grow,” said Jason Turner, ArcBest vice president of talent and growth initiatives. “We support the ongoing work to build out our trails network around the Fort Smith area. This project is a collaboration between FCRA, ACHE and ArcBest with the desire to connect the ArcBest and ACHE campuses to the historic barracks district; we support the FCRA’s overall trail plans and its connection with the overall Fort Smith active mobility master plan.”

The two-mile trail portion will be a lit trail to Celebration Park and the Chaffee Crossing historic district. The FCRA portion of the trail from Celebration Park on the ACHE campus to the Chaffee Crossing historic district will cost approximately $600,000, Mann said. The estimated cost of the ACHE portion of the trail is $425,000, said Les Smith, ACHE chief operating officer. ArcBest contributed $125,000 to FCRA for this phase of the plans, said Autumnn Mahar, director of external communications and public relations for ArcBest.

The design and engineering for the new trail are complete. Clearing of the trail has begun and construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2024, according to Daniel Mann, FCRA executive director and CEO. Once completed, ACHE will maintain its portion of the trail, and FCRA will be responsible for maintenance of its portion, he said.

The trail will lie within the boundaries of the City of Fort Smith, and Mann said at some point in the future when FCRA is reaching the point of dissolving, there will need to be discussions with Fort Smith regarding trail maintenance.

“In the bigger picture, partnering with FCRA and ACHE to build a network of trails right outside our office doors enriches the workforce attraction formula not only for ArcBest, but for the entire region. It’s a great expression of who we are as a corporate neighbor,” Turner said.

The Chaffee Crossing Trail System was designed and approved in 2014. Phase I (1.6 miles) of that plan was completed with FCRA, City of Fort Smith, and ARDOT TAP grant funding in 2020. FCRA and the City of Fort Smith have plans to construct Phase II (0.8 miles) of the trail this year and next and complete the design of Phase III (approximately 4.1 miles) in 2024. The Chaffee Crossing Trail System is part of the Fort Smith Master Trail Plan.

“With these connecting trail segments, Chaffee Crossing will lead the way in showing how trails and greenways aren’t simply for recreation. When we build these connections, we’re building a city where the daily rhythm of getting from point A to point B can be a part of a practical, healthy, and enjoyable lifestyle,” said Michael Mings, Fort Smith mobility coordinator.