Leader Blues

Friday, November 13, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cities get grant from state

By ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader editor

Jacksonville was recently awarded $53,191 to build the second phase of a hiking and bicycle trail around Bayou Meto.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department announced this week recipients of federal funds that will help finance several projects in the state.

Arkansas State University-Heber Springs received a $29,000 grant.

“It’s been a year or so since I applied for those funds,” Jacksonville Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley said.

The financing will go toward adding to the partially completed recreational trail.

“Phase two will go around the back of the (Dupree Lake),” Oakley said, “so people can go fishing there.” The trail will also be for walking and bicycle riding, he said.

The first phase of the project, known officially as the Bayou Meto Creek Trail, consisted of beginning construction of a walking trail around the lake.

The second phase will continue around the lake to add to the path so that it wraps behind the water, Oakley said.

He said he hadn’t yet heard from the Arkansas State Highway Commission that the creek will receive the grant for the additional construction. But he was still happy to learn that Jacksonville was selected to receive the funding.

The trail is planned to eventually go toward Rixie and reach Hwy. 161.

There isn’t a definite date for completion of the trail, on which construction began in 2000, because it depends on when funds become available, Oakley said.

“As moneys come in, we apply,” he said.

There is some property around the lake that still needs to be acquired by the city before the trail can be completed, he said.

Several easements have already been obtained for construction to move forward immediately.

The second phase will consist of clearing vegetation, laying gravel and then asphalt to complete that portion of the trail.

Colbie Falwell, a spokesperson for ASU-Beebe, said, “The money will go to the improvement and expansion of the trail on Sugarloaf Mountain behind the ASU-Heber Springs campus. The master plan is to renovate the historic summit trail that has been used by many generations of residents and visitors.

“The long term plan is to have the trail go around the base of the mountain and extend to the top to allow people to continue to use the trail,” Falwell said.

The Arkansas Highway Commission awarded the funds as part of its recreational trails program totaling $1.428 million, including a $289,000 project for North Little Rock.

The program is federally funded through the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. Part of that act’s funding is dedicated specifically for the construction of recreational trails.