A project to connect downtown Fort Smith to its river front got a $2 million dollar boost Wednesday.
City leaders announced Wednesday (Oct. 30) that the Walton Family awarded Fort Smith Parks & Recreation a grant totaling $1 million. That money will go towards expanding a trail from the Fort Smith National Historic Site to the north bend of the Arkansas River. More specifically, the funds will be used to construct a two-mile section of the River West Trail from River Park to the Rice Carden Levee Trail.
The city said they will match that funding, making the trail project a $2 million investment. In addition, land has been donated from the Westphal family, the Griffin family and the U.S. Marshall’s Museum.
“It’s going to be an iconic pathway with lights and benches and a walking trail,” explained Richard Griffin, whose family donated land. “It’ll be safe and secure. It’s close to downtown. It’s going to be a perfect spot. It will also make this area more of a destination for people to come visit.”
City leaders said they’re excited to get to work on the project, which has been a top priority for several years according to Mayor Sandy Sanders.
“This is part of the master trail plan that the city developed more than 12 years ago,” Sanders said. “We can’t do everything at once so this additional funding has enabled us to add another segment to that trail project.”
The city plans to have blue prints drawn and construction started by late fall of next year with the trail opening to the public in the middle of 2015, Sanders said.
The city’s master plan calls for more than 80 miles of inter-connected trails, according to city leaders.
“This two-mile trail is the most significant stretch to be completed to date,” Mike Alsup, The Director of Fort Smith Parks & Recreation, said in a written statement. “The citizens who steered the greenways plan are encouraged by the growing interest in building out the plan. This investment certainly gives us momentum.”