The newly named project manager for the Chad and Betty Ann Colley Wilderness Trail plans to have the project open to bicyclists, walkers and runners in 2018.

On Monday night, members of the Van Buren City Council voted 6-0 to name Ozark Off-Road Cyclists as the project manager for THE trail project located on 55 acres on the north side OF Interstate 40 and adjacent to Park Ridge.

Brannon Pack, executive director of OORC said the nonprofit organization plans to return to the council during the first quarter of the year with a master plan with plans to have the multi-use trail with a soft surface open in 2018.

Lap Bui, who will head up the project for OORC, said the Colley Wilderness Trail is a great opportunity for Van Buren as well as the rest of the River Valley.

Bui said OORC has already obtained $140,000 in private donations for the project and will continue to work with the city to purse grants and private funding for the development of the bike and pedestrian trail.

He said Arkansas has become a great mecca for off-road biking for more than 20 years.

“OORC has worked with Siloam Springs, Alma, Greenwood and Fort Smith in development trails,” Bui said. “Van Buren is the next step and could be the star of the region. The Chad and Betty Ann Colley Wilderness Trail will be different from others in the region and a draw for tourism dollars.”

He said the trail will be unique and promote healthy lifestyles.

Council member Tyler Wood said he is excited about the Chad and Betty Ann Colley Wilderness Trail project.

“It is about time we draw people back to Van Buren with parks and trails,” Wood said.

Mayor Bob Freeman said he and City Planner Joe Hurst have met with OORC representatives on several occasions.

“This is a great opportunity to form a partnership that will impact the community by building trails for everyone,” Freeman said.

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.

Also, the council voted 6-0 to rezone property in The Plaza on East Pointer Trail from Residential 3 to Commercial 2 as requested by Kevin Bell, president of Jimmy Bell Real Estates.

Firstar Bank plans to buy the property, about 1.5 acres, from TPC Partners LLC of Tulsa, which originally had the property rezoned from C-2 to R-3 for a planned retirement community.

Bell noted the rezoned property is surrounded by C-2 properties, including the recently opened Hurst Family Dental Clinic at 2105 E. Pointer Trail.

The council also approved:

• The 2018 budget which includes proposed expenditures of $15,621,513.

• Selling by sealed bid or auction a 2004 Chevrolet pickup formerly used by the police department.

• Two percent cost of living raises for the mayor to $66,000, city clerk/treasurer to $49,000 and city attorney to $13,000. On Jan. 1, the city’s share for the District Court judge’s annual salary will be $27,551.90 and Crawford County’s share will be $18,774.13, as dictated by state law.

• Appointed Justin Goins, a Van Buren High School teacher, to the Historic District Commission to replace Lisa Willis.