U of A is Creating Natural Trails on the Oak Ridge Hillside
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – This summer, the University of Arkansas is creating nearly a mile of natural-surface trails within the Oak Ridge hillside. This new pocket park in the campus core is supported by a Walton Family Foundation grant. Once the project is complete, eroded social trails will be replaced with picturesque multi-use trails.
Progressive Trail Design, a Fayetteville-based trail building company, will design and build the upgraded trails. Their previous work includes trails at Crystal Bridges, Mount Kessler, and the Taos New Mexico Bike Park.
Eric Boles, director of the U of A Office for Sustainability, said the trail’s proximity to campus, residents, and schools make it perfect for both recreation and transportation.
“It’s exciting to see this natural hillside on campus getting an update that will improve the experience of all users,” Boles said. “Whether you’re walking to class, going for a jog, or finding flow on a mountain bike, you’ll enjoy the reimagined Oak Ridge.”
The Oak Ridge is a 3.5-acre wooded hillside between the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Clinton Street. The hillside is home to a scenic multi-use paved path with eroded foot trails crisscrossing the landscape. Those informal trails are soon to be reclaimed and replaced with a sustainable trail system that will enhance the safety and aesthetics of the Oak Ridge.
The updated system of paths will include decomposed granite trails, singletrack trails, gateway trails, treated wood steps, and flagstone trailheads. Each natural surface will provide a unique experience while fulfilling the design considerations of that area. The completed product will be durable, scenic, low impact and fun for users.
“The intention is to provide an exciting pocket park in the middle of campus for users learn bike skills and to improve connectivity through the park,” said Clayton Woodruff, vice president of Progressive Trail Design. “The decomposed granite trails and wooden stairs will improve a crucial connection from the south side of campus to the core.”
Construction on the Oak Ridge will begin in July and be completed in the early fall of 2018. This will be the first in a series of campus trails supported by a $355,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation at the direction of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton. The U of A will provide matching resources for site work and land allocation.
“The Oak Ridge provides an experience for students that’s unique to the U of A campus,” said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management. “With environmentally conscious projects like creek restorations, rain gardens, green roofs, and pollinator friendly plantings we get to lead by example and inspire our students to think big. Learning does not stop at the classroom door.”
The Oak Ridge improvements will be the first phase in a series of interconnected soft-surface trails supported by the University of Arkansas. Once the trails are built, UREC Outdoors, Ozark Off Road Cyclist, and the Office for Sustainability will host periodic trail maintenance days each fall and spring. These are a chance for volunteers to learn about sustainable trails while identifying and removing invasive species.
The University of Arkansas has recently partnered with the City of Fayetteville on a Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator position to improve the active transportation connections across campus. The enhanced trail system in the Oak Ridge is planned to align with other upcoming bike and pedestrian connections.
“When universities and communities invest in active transportation, great things happen: decreased environmental footprint, improved mental and physical health, enhanced prosperity, and a higher quality of life,” Boles said.
To learn more about cycling at the University of Arkansas, visit bike.uark.edu
Eric Boles, Director
Office of Sustainability
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