Mountain bikers, repurposed furniture collectors and steampunk conventioneers are in mind with the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission.
The second annual Junk Fest returns to downtown Van Buren on Memorial Day weekend, May 28-29; the first Junk Fest was held last year during Labor Day weekend. This year there will be two Junk Fests: Memorial Day and Labor Day, Sept. 3. And not only is the Old Timers Day Festival being moved back to April 28-29 this year, but it’s being revamped as the Old Timers Day Steampunk Festival.
Van Buren’s Junk Fest attracted an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people over two days last year, said Maryl Purvis, Van Buren A&P executive director. According to the event’s webpage, www.oldtownvanburen.com “steampunk is modern technology powered by steam power, cogs and wheels and set in the 1800s with a backdrop of Victorian England or America’s Wild West.”
Bill Hanna of the local nonprofit group Friends of Recreational Trails presented information Wednesday to the A&P on the plans for the Van Buren trail. By sometime this fall, Van Buren could be seeing a lot more mountain bikers.
A 50-plus-acre tract of land has been donated by Chad and Betty Ann Colley to the city of Van Buren with plans being developed for “soft trails” favored by mountain bikers.
The city of Van Buren has budgeted $200,000 for the estimated $400,000 project, and $141,000 has been raised from the private sector with Friends of Recreational Trails. Hanna of Friends of Recreational Trails put in a request of $25,000 from the A&P on Wednesday.
Construction could begin as early as this summer in time for use in the fall, Hanna said. Funds are expected to be received soon to pay for the master plan. A completion date of late March is expected for the master plan, according to Lap Bui of Frontier Ozark Off Road Cyclists. A paved parking lot at the trail head could be a part of the plan, Hanna noted.
Joe Hurst, Van Buren planning and development director, said the city has contracted with Ozark Off Road Cyclists to develop the master plan for the land between Forest Oaks and Park Ridge housing developments.
The Van Buren City Council will vote on how it will use the budgeted $200,000 for trails once the master plan is received, according to Mayor Bob Freeman’s office. Hurst added that the city is considering applying for a state TAP (Trails Alternative Program) grant that would cover 80 percent of the city’s $200,000 portion.
The Van Buren A&P Commission expects to get more involved once the Frontier Ozark Off Road Cyclists delivers its master plan to the Van Buren Planning Department, Purvis said.
Hurst noted that he is set to meet with the Park Ridge at Lee Creek Property Owner’s Association in March to keep them informed of trail development and answer any questions.
“From everything I’ve read, studies show property values increase when trails are nearby, and for many homeowners the trail will be behind their back yard,” Hurst said. “This is part of our investment in quality of life, walkability and more trails in Van Buren.”
Ultimately, Hurst said, the goal is to connect Fort Smith’s trails under development along the Arkansas River with the Van Buren trails.