By Trey Youngdahl
An open house hosted by Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, and the City of Mena was held at the historic Dequeen Street Armory on Thursday, May 5, to discuss the proposed Mena bike trails.
Discussed was a biking and hiking trail system that will span across Arkansas State Parks (ASP), United States Forest Service (USFS), and City of Mena managed lands. The project was first conceived in the fall of 2021. Currently, the city, ASP, and Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation (APRF) are in the phase of the project where they will be determining trail zones, access points, and connectivity.
“All of the players on this project were there, including the forest service,” Advertising and Promotion board member Rick Chrisman said. “There were probably 200 people there, which was encouraging to see.”
According to the Trails at Mena website (trailsatmena.com), the vision for the project, developed in collaboration with the land managers, is as follows: To create a unique and inspiring visitor experience with a focus on gravity fed and backcountry trails that allows for the realization of a higher potential for outdoor recreation, economic vitality, and quality of life by capitalizing on the terrain and relationships between local, state, and federal partners.
The project is being headed by the USFS, ASP, APRF, and the city.
“As the majority of the land area and potential for recreation amenities is on National Forest System lands,” the trails at Mena website continues. “The Forest Service anticipates a user agreement being formed with one or multiple of these other agencies.”
Due to portions of the project being located on federally managed lands, environmental review under the direction of the USFS will have to be conducted prior to implementation. APRF anticipates that ASP would be the primary permittee responsible for management of the trails.
The next and last part of the planning phase of the project will be a city study, where walkability, bikeability and the streetscape will be considered, as well as making basecamp concept plans. Currently, it is projected to be finished in spring of 2023.
“It was a really good feeling to have it all out in the open now,” Chrisman said. “I think that now that it’s out there, people see the magnitude of what it could be and the effects it could have on our economy.”