The Van Buren Parks and Recreation Commission met Monday night to find a beginning point for its effort to develop a trails plan for the city.
“A trails system is a topic which has initiated interest for a lot of people,” said City Planner Joe Hurst. “The city has starting developing a master trail plan but we need to determine the extent of our system in the next decade.”
Diane Morrison of the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization suggested the next step should be a series of public forums “to see what the vision” is for trails in Van Buren for walkers, runners and bikers.
“The city must determine what it has,” Morrison said, “and what kind of routes it wants.”
Those at Monday’s meeting expressed various ideas on the city’s master plan for trails.
Aaron Dickens of Van Buren said he would like to see a trail in the utility right-of-way in the area north of Legacy Heights.
“I could get some volunteers out there with weed eaters and we could get it done,” Dickens said.
Creating paths on donated land could be low-cost with donated labor, said Tyler Wood, a member of the commission and city alderman-elect.
Rusty Myers of Van Buren stressed the system must be seen as community trails and walkways and not just trails for bikers and runners.
“We must remember the walkers and those pushing baby strollers,” Myers said.
Commission chairman Michael Brammer asked about a pedestrian bridge between Van Buren and Fort Smith.
“Do you have a money tree in your back yard?” Morrison asked.
However, Morrison and Hurst were both quick to point out there are numerous grants available to assist in the city’s effort to develop its trails system.
“But, first, you must decide on what kind of routes you want,” Morrison said.
She suggested beginning the public forums in January after the holidays to seek input from those who would utilize the system.
“We need that grassroots effort to find out what the community wants,” Morrison said. “We need to think outside the box.”
She pointed out that people who are relocating, especially younger people, often look for amenities first and a job later.
Wood said he had recently interviewed a potential pharmacist for Sparks Regional Medical Center who first asked about the region’s trail system.
Hurst noted trails often help raise property values, encourage healthy lifestyles, promote economic development and improve the overall quality life.
“We need to consider all options available to the city,” Hurst said. “We are at the very beginning and we need to know what the citizens of Van Buren would like to see.”