Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tales of the Trails

The Fayetteville Sidewalk and Trails Task Force met last night and approved the city's trail construction plan for this year and a proposed budget of $1.3 million. Trails Coordinator Matt Mihalevich said, realistically, he expected to complete about half of the 11 proposed projects that would add 7.5 miles to the existing system. He also indicated a change in philosophy this year to increase connectivity among existing trails, an idea consistent with the new administration's focus on trails as alternative transportation as well as recreation.

Two of the proposed projects will require new thinking for Mihalevich. Extending the Lake Fayetteville Trail from Crossover Road south to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and extending Town Branch Creek Trail from School Avenue west to Greathouse Park must be done with much greater environmental sensitivity and concern for riparian zones than previous trail construction projects. Since there is no election this year, attention can be given to doing it right instead of carelessly rushing construction for ribbon cuttings and photo opportunities.

I was again reminded of the magical quality of our trail system when reading a column by Lynn Atkins in the Rogers Hometown News about her bike ride with her daughters on that balmy Saturday earlier this month. Driving south, she said, "Somewhere between Rogers and Fayetteville we must have crossed into a different dimension. It just didn't feel like Arkansas."

Once on the Scull Creek Trail, she said, "The very first person we encountered after we aired up our tires was a college kid on a unicycle. A unicycle. We passed him carefully and I couldn't help but notice that most of the bicycle riders coming toward us had little dogs in their front baskets. We dodged walkers and joggers and kids on roller blades and headed through a little tunnel that got us safely under a busy street. That's where we saw a couple riding bikes that each had an extra bike attached to the back. Both the man and the woman had a child peddling a half bike attached to the parents full bike. I turned around to look at them and almost ran into a skate boarder. ...On the way back we saw the recumbent bikes. None of us were really sure what we were seeing. They looked and moved like little go carts, but the people were pedaling with their legs stretched straight out in front of them."

"Looking back," Atkins reflected and recalled, "I can only compare the bike trail in Fayetteville to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There were dozens of people peacefully coexisting while each did their own thing. The trail is long enough for serious exercisers but accessible for people who don't want to go that far. And being able to prop up the bike and get a drink was something I wouldn't want to miss."

That's Fayetteville and one of the things we love about it.

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