Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) announced today that it has awarded $348,000 in grants to support programs aimed at developing and activating local and regional trail networks. The projects and programs being funded are helping to establish fair access to safe spaces where people can walk, bike, and engage in outdoor activities in the communities they reside in.
The RTC received requests from 135 communities totaling $2.9 million. 30 grants were awarded including $7,500 to Hot Springs Parks and Trails for supporting early development and conceptual designs of the Genesee & Wyoming Safety Trail, which will fill critical gaps in the city-wide trail system.
“At RTC, we believe having space to be active outside is a fundamental right. These grants are critical to supporting organizations that are bringing RTC’s vision of trails connecting everyone, everywhere, to life,” said Mary Ellen Koontz, the lead of RTC’s TrailNation™ Collaborative initiative. “Trail networks are emerging in hundreds of communities across the country, and they are what’s needed to make it safer and more convenient for millions of people to access the outdoors where they live—whether that’s to be active, get around town or have fun in nature.”
According to Anthony Whittington, Director of Parks and Trails for the City of Hot Springs, this initial grant will be used for design work on a 6 mile section in the city limits portion of the railway. Part of the improvement will be to enhance safe routes to schools making it easier and safer for children to walk to school. The grant is being augmented with $2000 donated by the Hot Springs Friends of the Parks. Whittington said, “The grant will allow the City of Hot Springs to have a better partnership when working with the railroad company on this project.”
Text from the grant application,”…the proposed Genesee & Wyoming Safety Trail is almost entirely owned by one private entity. City of Hot Springs, Parks and Trails Department is asking for grant money to develop conceptual designs in hopes of that entity, Arkansas Midland Railroad Co. (parent organization being Genesee & Wyoming), agreeing to some stipulation for shared use.”
The city had previously applied for a RAISE grant to build connected trails through the Hot Springs, similar to what the City of Conway recently received, but was not awarded that.
Whittington said, “We’re using feedback from the City of Conway to apply again for the Raise grant. We’re told to ask big so we are combining many of our trail projects for a future application. We are also utilizing RTP grants to continue working on some of these projects.”
“Our Main focus will be what we call the Main Street Mile which will start over by the Hot Springs Magnet Schools,” said Whittington.
“The conceptual design will run a multi-use trail parallel to the Arkansas Midland Railroad tracks approx. 16 miles, from Mountain Pine to Southwest Trail connectors east of Hot Springs. The conceptual design will include connections to LOViT, Northwoods, National Park Service, Stokes Creek Greenway Trail, Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail, Southwest Trail, and future Gulpha Creek Greenway Trail, and others,” said Hannah Rice, Trails Coordinator for Hot Springs Parks & Trails.
Long range, the city hopes to work with Garland County to extend this trail to Mountain Pine and eventually to connect the city to the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT).