Northwest Arkansas is home to an extensive 300-mile network of natural, bike-friendly surface trails. But in nearby Fayetteville, there was once no connection between the road network and the University of Arkansas (U of A).
That changed in the summer of 2020 when the U of A partnered with the City of Fayetteville, the Trailblazers, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group to begin construction of the Fayetteville Traverse Trail.
The 18-mile Natural Surface Loop is nearing completion and will connect the school to other bike trails in the area.
Joining the trail later this month will be the Tsa La Gi Bike Park – a skills development area offering different paths to help cyclists progress in their mountain biking skills. Both will be open to students around the start of the fall semester.
“These types of on-campus amenities are what students are looking for. They also offer exceptional University Recreation (UREC) programming on our campus,” said Eric Boles, director of the Office for Sustainability. “Furthermore, providing these trails on campus not only enhances our landscape, but also provides students with opportunities for recreation without leaving the neighborhood.”
Fayetteville Crossing Trail
Boles said the crossing trail is part of the university’s vision to create one of the most bike-friendly campuses in the country, given that the U of A campus community now numbers 35,000 visitors. per day.
“There is growing interest in walkable and cycleable infrastructure,” he said. “Travel trends are constantly changing. Active transportation modes have increased by 11% since 2015, with less than 40% of affiliates purchasing parking permits. Our students are looking for other ways to get around. Trails are a great option.
The new campus addition will begin at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. From there, the trail winds through a mix of hardwood forests, residence halls, educational buildings, and streams on its way around campus.
Boles said the Fayetteville Traverse Trail will hopefully bring the following benefits to Uof A:
- A healthier, happier and more productive student body and workforce.
- Less lost work/study time due to traffic jams.
- Reduced parking demand and associated costs.
- Improvement of the institutional brand.
- Research opportunities with regional bicycle companies.
“The Trailblazers – a non-profit organization that develops multi-use trails – has been instrumental in ensuring the results of this collaborative effort are world-class in design, construction and user experience. “, he added.
Tsa La Gi Bike Park
While the University of Alberta Facilities Management Planning and Design Office and Office of Sustainability oversee the Fayetteville Traverse Trail project, UREC oversees the regular management and programming of the bike park . The inauguration is scheduled for August 25, 2022.
“The various paths through the park present challenges that participants must overcome depending on their skill level,” said Caitlin Arnett, coordinator of UREC Outdoors. “That way, riders don’t have to fully commit to high-consequence features. Instead, they can pile up difficult obstacles over time as they gain confidence.
ADDITIONAL CREDIT: It is important to keep experience levels in mind when planning activities and trips.
“As the region becomes a destination location for cyclists, it becomes a powerful recruiting tool for students who enjoy cycling and staying active,” Arnett said. “I think this benefits UREC Outdoors as the level of community engagement and development within the program increases as more students get involved. UREC’s mission is to empower students through recreation and wellness. UREC Outdoors provides a space for cyclists to connect and be active together.
She added that exercising outdoors also provides mental health benefits due to the environment reducing stress and increasing social connections.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I think it was seen as a necessity to get outside to be physically active,” Arnett said. “But I think a lot of people have come to love being outdoors and have been able to really engage with spaces like they never have before, so the trend continues.
“We view these amenities as a great way to build relationships and improve individual health,” Boles added. “These projects also contribute to the reduction of our carbon footprint and contribute to the university’s goal of carbon neutrality.”