Members of the Van Buren City Council will consider a project manager for a wilderness trails project at the Dec. 18 meeting set for 5:30 p.m. at the Municipal Complex.
City Planner Joe Hurst has drafted an ordinance naming Ozark Off-Road Cyclists as the project manager for the Chad and Betty Ann Colley Wilderness Trail project.
“This will allow city staff to work with OORC in developing the plan and raising funds,” Hurst said.
The Ozark Off Road Cyclists is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and maintaining sustainable soft surface trails in the Arkansas Ozarks, giving greater opportunities for mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts to live healthy active lives.
Established in 1997, the OORC has been working with local, state, and federal agencies to preserve the natural environment for recreational experience. The OORC regularly partners with a variety of user groups, land managers, and businesses to support and run numerous outdoor recreation events including educational training in sustainable trail building, group rides, races, and trail work days.
The club is a chapter member of the International Mountain Bike Association.
Hurst said he has met with a group of interested donors who are eager to improve Van Buren by investing in multi-use trails.
The trail project is located on 55 acres on the north side Interstate 40 and adjacent to Northridge.
“We understand that trails benefit communities and many have expressed excitement about these plans,” Hurst said. “But, we want to make it clear that anyone interested in the project can attend upcoming meetings to ask questions and contribute their ideas.”
Hurst said he has spoken with representatives from the nearby home owners association and other neighbors to assure them that the parks commission will hold public meetings as the plan unfolds.
He also said he has been in contact with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District about the city’s master trails plan.
“The plan was slowed by employee turnover, but it will pick back up after Reese Brewer was recently hired as director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization,” Hurt said.
The master plan will provide maps and information for connecting Van Buren by trails and also to surrounding cities.
“What’s really exciting is the possibility of connecting our trails regionally,” Hurst said. “It’s easy to gauge the area’s enthusiasm for trails by the number of crowded public planning meetings and multiple projects being funded, not only by public dollars, but private donations.”
He said cities in the region are creating their own unique trail experience for their local residents and potential visitors.
“As we continue those localized efforts, the next step is working regionally to create an interconnected trail system throughout the entire area,” Hurt said. “We could see River Valley trails becoming a regional attraction.”