Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Walton Family Foundation have announced a multi-million dollar effort to complete a biking and pedestrian trail in eastern Arkansas.
“This is great news for cyclists and hikers, who have waited more than 20 years for the completion of this rails-to-trails project. The matching grant we announced today, combined with Arkansas Parks and Tourism funds, means that the wait is almost over,” Hutchinson said. “The $7 million in tourism that the 85-mile trail will attract, along with the 600 jobs it will create, will infuse renewed energy into southeast Arkansas along the trail. Hikers and bikers will see bottomland hardwood forests and views from the levee that we don’t see from our cars. This is a great project for Arkansas.”
Now, about 44 miles of The Delta Heritage Trail State Park are complete, and officials hope to invest a total of $40 million to complete another 40-mile section, which would create one of the longest dedicated pedestrian and bicycle routes in Arkansas.
“The Delta Heritage Trail will connect the region’s expansive natural beauty and create new ways to experience its unique cultural offerings,” said Jim Walton, Walton Family Foundation. “This joint effort is a dream nearly 30 years in the making, a bold idea now being realized in a community that, with continued support, can reach its enormous, untapped potential.”
The funding includes a $20 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation, and the state is applying for federal grants to match the grant.
The grant includes funding to support a plan for public recognition of the life and professional accomplishments of John Harold Johnson (1918-2005). Johnson was born in Arkansas City and rose above abject poverty and racial discrimination to build a publishing empire that helped forever change the perception of African Americans in the United States. Johnson Publishing Company became the largest African American owned and operated publishing company in the world and launched Ebony and Jet, two very successful magazines that gave a voice to millions of Americans.
Work has already started and will continue until all sections of the trail are connected.
“Delta Heritage Trail State Park provides a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors,” said Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann. “When completed, not only will it cross two major rivers – the White and Arkansas – it also traverses through the Dale Bumpers National Wildlife Refuge that has enormous old-growth cypress trees that will give the visitor a sense of being in a ‘Jurassic Park’ environment. In this area of the refuge, sections of Delta Heritage Trail State Park are elevated, providing an exceptional view of the scenery. Guests will be able to have extraordinary birding and wildlife watching opportunities and may even catch a glimpse of one of the many black bears, which is considered the best genetic representative of the historic bear population that existed in the Lower Mississippi Valley of Arkansas.”
For more information about Arkansas State Parks, click here.