Benton Parks and Recreation is making strides to bring biking to Saline County in a big way.
After receiving a $100,000 grant from the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, they are now looking to bring a mountain bike park to the community.
“This is a mountain bike park. It will feature some hard surface trails, some soft surface trails, pump track sections, and some track sections for kids hopefully. We're getting a lot of public feedback from people in the community,” said Stephanie Jones, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Benton.
Jones said they want to see something for the community that will impact all generations.
“If your a beginner or advanced, this is a place you are going to want to go,” Jones added.
The park would also be connected to the incoming Southwest Trail.
The park will be located just west of Ralph Bunche Park.
Jones said this is something they had been talking about for years, however, it all started to come together after Mayor Tom Farmer organized community leaders from around the city to jumpstart their 2040 vision.
“With that leadership it kind of got momentum,” said Jones.
Jones credited Farmer with making the connection to the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation so they could receive the grant. She also credited Scott Elliot of Holy Roller and Michael Irmen, president of the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, who have been major advocates for bringing more bike activities to the city.
Assistant Parks Director Daniel Baxley has also played a role in the project, he will oversee the project as it is being built and manage the maintenance aspects of the process.
He talked about what has motivated the parks department to get more involved in outdoor recreation.
“A lot of it for us was when COVID-19 hit, we were much more geared towards the big sports. When COVID-19 came, we saw outdoor recreation becoming something everyone wanted to do. It was already on our agenda, but it moved up in priority,” added Baxley.
Jones added that the department released a survey to citizens so they can see what the community wanted, she said recreational mainstream sports actually placed last on the survey and that citizens wanted more things like bike trails, walking trails and natural resource areas scored at the top.
“It wasn’t just our priority, it’s the communities as well,” said Jones.
Suzanne Grobmeyer, executive director of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation worked with the city to secure the grant for the park. The Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation is a non-profit that focuses on a statewide reach that promoted outdoor recreation in parks.
“We’ve had a little more focus in some of our work around trails and that for biking, hiking and trail running,” said Grobmeyer.
Grobmeyer said the Benton is a thriving community with a lot of kids and families. She also said there is already a strong cycling community in the area.
“That to me is really where we should have a large focus, to capture the growth of cycling,” she added.
Grobmeyer said she spent a lot of time outdoors growing up and thats what made her passionate about outdoor recreation.
“It’s really tangible work, you get to build it and see its impact. What a gift,” said Grobmeyer.
Grobmeyer will work with the city on the project, she said right now they are looking at the area and deciding how to design the park.
“One of the things that I think is so important in talking about design, is always looking at the unique opportunities Benton offers,” she added.