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Fort Smith citizens raise concerns about potential $16 million highway disrupting trails and parks

Josh Buckfink, spokesperson for the City of Fort Smith, says these construction plans are not set in stone, and they welcome input from citizens.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — As the City of Fort Smith discusses plans to possibly construct a $16 million highway, some citizens have concerns about how it would impact several of the city’s trails.

The highway would connect Planter’s Road to Massard Road.

Scott Chapman is the bike shop manager at The Woodsman Company, a locally owned outdoor store in Fort Smith.

Chapman is among other citizens speaking out with concerns that the highway would cut through Ben Geren Park and disrupt some of the city’s major recreational trails.

“That is our main trail system here in Fort Smith, and if we take that away, what do we do?” Chapman said.

Chapman says those trails are frequently used for cycling, running, hiking, and more recreational activities.

“We shouldn't have to necessarily go ride or walk or hike or fish in Northwest Arkansas,” Chapman said. “Let’s protect what little we do have here [in the River Valley].”

Josh Buckfink, spokesperson for the City of Fort Smith, says the city is aware of these concerns.

“We have no intention of disrupting trails. We want to keep green space. We're going to work hard to make it an even better place for mountain bikers and people who want to enjoy nature,” Buckfink said.

Buckfink says the extension to Planter’s Road is not set in stone, and there are other options on the table to help with traffic in the area.

He says this is all part of an effort to make the area more accessible to a second police precinct.

“Our police precinct currently is in downtown, and it takes over 20 minutes to get to Chaffee, so we want to help lower those response times by them, and by our fire department over there as well,” Buckfink said.

He adds that the city has been hosting study sessions to discuss these plans, and they welcome input from citizens.

“We’re going to have public input sessions on this issue so that people can come out and voice their concerns. We want to hear them. We want to know how we can make this better for everybody,” Buckfink said.

In the meantime, Chapman says as the area grows, he hopes to see the green spaces grow too.

“I hope we can continue to build on these trails that we built up over the past decade or two. Let's continue that forward, and let's not throw it reverse right now,” Chapman said.

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