BENTONVILLE, Ark., Aug. 4, 2020 – Northwest Arkansas’ trail system is experiencing a steady rise in bike and foot traffic, according to a new report commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation. Since 2015, there has been a 36% growth in cycling use and 13% growth in pedestrian activity, with the heaviest volume along the Razorback Regional Greenway, in densely populated areas and near regional assets like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
“Northwest Arkansas residents are continuing to take advantage of new trail options,” said Karen Minkel, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program director. “Yet, there’s still work to do to ensure the trail system serves the region’s mobility needs and is seamlessly connected to safe streets.”
Benton and Washington counties currently have 484 total miles of trails, including 322 miles of natural-surface trails and 162 miles of multi-use paved paths. The foundation, municipalities, nonprofits, and other organizations have worked together to grow the region’s network, increasing the number of miles by nearly 32% in the last two years alone. To measure the impact of these outdoor amenities on quality of life, the foundation commissioned studies in 2015, 2017, and 2019 analyzing trail use across the region.
Since the last study, the region saw a 10% increase in cycling use and a 2% increase in pedestrian activity on the region’s multi-use paved paths and natural-surface trails. As in previous reports, cyclist activity was highest on weekends. In a shift from 2017, pedestrian activity was greater earlier in the week. In 2019, the network reported an average annual volume of 92,167 cyclists and 66,329 pedestrians—a significant jump from 2015. Overall activity continued to be higher on multi-use paved paths than natural-surface trails, and the rapid rate of natural-surface trail development, including 93 miles added from 2017 to 2019, likely caused more dispersed use.
In line with national trends, Northwest Arkansas has seen a sharp uptick in trail use during COVID-19. In June, natural surface trails in Blowing Springs and the Back 40 Trails in Bella Vista reported a 105% increase in average monthly traffic from last year. That same month, some Bentonville multi-use trails reported a 76% increase in daily use and the Razorback Regional Greenway at North Street in Fayetteville had its highest monthly user count at more than 41,000 cyclists and pedestrians since opening in 2008. Recently, Bike NWA expanded its Slow Streets NWA initiative in Bentonville and Fayetteville to accommodate the growing number of residents walking, biking, and exploring the region without a vehicle and to help ensure safe physical distancing.
For additional highlights about the study, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org/learning/trends-in-trail-use-in-northwest-arkansas.
About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2019, the foundation awarded more than $525 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.