Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Southwest Trail

Plans are being developed for a trail between Little Rock and Hot Springs.  This 50-mile trail would follow the old Rock Island Railroad track and would be one of the longest Rails-to-Trails projects in the country.  One of the great things about using old railroad beds is that much of the earth-moving and grading work is already done and you are guaranteed a trail with no steep slopes (which is no easy task when passing through the Ouachitas).
Many local officials from counties and cities along the path have expressed interest, so now the big question is where the ~$20 million will come from.  Funds for these types of projects often come from a variety of sources including federal transportation dollars, as well as state, county, and city funds.  Arkansas gets roughly $10 million a year in federal Transportation Alternatives funds, but these don't go just to trails.  It should be noted that funds for trails via this program and from more local sources are under constant threat these days by political parties and groups that think all transportation dollars should go towards expanding highways and repaving roads as part of an unbalanced "cars only" approach to transportation policy.  If we want more funding for trails, we need to encourage our lawmakers to protect existing funding sources and pass local initiatives similar to the statewide 1/8th cent conservation sales tax and the sales tax increase that Little Rock recently passed in part to fund parks and trails.
This trail would help complete the second side of the "city-in-a-park" trail triangle that is part of the Little Rock Parks Master Plan.

The Prezi below, by Mason Ellis, has more details on the project.

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