Russellville-based Arkansas Tech University has received a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation to help establish the Arkansas Trail Management Institute.
The funds were made available through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Transportation Alternatives Program and Recreational Trails Program. The grant program provides for an 80 percent federal share with a 20 percent match required from the eligible sponsor.
According to ATU, stated goals of the Arkansas Trail Management Institute are to provide trail management training to aid in workforce development, increase the safety of trail construction, maintenance and use, provide more practical and efficient use of natural resources, increase the sustainability of the design, use and maintenance of trails and continue the trajectory of Arkansas being a leader in trail offerings.
“We will offer online courses on trail management and in-person trail school and workshop events to help develop Arkansas’s trail workforce,” Dr. Julie Furst-Bowe, ATU interim vice president for academic affairs, noted in a memorandum to the ATU Board of Trustees when the grant application was approved by the board in June 2023. “Courses will focus on the safe and sustainable management of trails and trail systems (new and old trails). These courses will be asynchronous, allowing flexibility to complete when and where someone has time. The hands-on trail schools and workshops will focus on the hard skills needed in the trade. The focus will be to give credentials such as, but not limited to, wilderness first aid, chainsaw safety, mini excavator safety and Leave No Trace. With these curriculums and platforms established, this can provide consistent training for years to come with updates for the trends.”
Dr. Jay Post, ATU associate professor of recreation and park administration, is the principal investigator for the project and will leader the Arkansas Trail Management Institute. Dr. Michael Bradley, ATU associate professor of recreation and park administration and head of the ATU Department of Agriculture and Tourism, is the project’s secondary investigator.
ATU established its bachelor’s degree program in recreation and park administration in 1965. The program was first accredited by the Council on Accreditation National Recreation and Park Association and the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation in 1997. The ATU recreation and park administration program holds accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions.