The Razorback Regional Greenway in Northwest Arkansas is a project that has been years in the making. The concept of a regional greenway project has been a goal of regional planners, cities, and residents of Northwest Arkansas for more than two decades. This vision was supported by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC), which in 2000 began a long-range planning process that included regional trails as a key component. A task force formed by the NWARPC conducted public meetings and facilitated a coordinated effort among the communities of Northwest Arkansas.
FIRST DRAFT: HISTORIC ROUTES
Early on, the task force identified three historic routes as the potential components for a regional trail: the Butterfield Stage Coach route; Civil War routes; and the Trail of Tears. These were combined with local trails to form what was then called the “Northwest Arkansas Heritage Trail.” The Heritage Trail Plan was adopted as the regional plan for two consecutive MPO long-range transportation plan updates.
This plan would require much of the regional trail to be constructed on roadways, as either a signed route or specially designated on-road facility. As a part of the regional trail update for the 2035 long range plan, discussion focused on an additional off-road system that worked in conjunction with the road-based system.
OFF-ROAD PLANNING BEGINS
The Walton Family Foundation has been active for many years in Northwest Arkansas trail construction. In July 2009, the foundation approved funding up to $15 million in Northwest Arkansas trails subject to a 1-to-1 match from participating cities. In late 2009, it also provided funding to hire a planning and design team with experience in the development of an off-road bicycle, pedestrian and mobility corridor, to provide guidance and set priorities in the overall regional trail development. The team consisted of representatives from Alta Planning + Design, Greenways, Inc., The Greenway Team, Thomas Woiwode, the League of American Bicyclists, and CEI Engineering.
In 2010, the team led a series of community workshops to define the route for an off-road greenway trail that would link together six communities in northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers and Bentonville). A series of four planning and design memorandums were produced by the team summarizing the results and findings of the work.
VISION BECOMES REALITY
The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 36-mile, primarily off-road, shared-use trail that extends from the Bella Vista Trail in north Bentonville to south Fayetteville. The trail links together dozens of popular community destinations.
The University of Arkansas campus
Corporate headquarters of Walmart, JB Hunt Transport Services and Tyson Foods
Arts and entertainment venues
Parks and Playgrounds
FUNDING THE GREENWAY
The Razorback Regional Greenway cost approximately $38 million. The majority of funds needed to build it came from a federal transportation grant and a matching grant and gift from the Walton Family Foundation. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission and Northwest Arkansas cities dedicated significant resources to bring the project to fruition.
TIGER II GRANT
In November 2010, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission received a $15 million federal transportation grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, to support design, acquisition of right-of-way and construction of the Razorback Regional Greenway. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant (TIGER) made it possible to build a world-class greenway in Northwest Arkansas.
The TIGER II grant award was one of 42 grants made by the Department of Transportation to support investment in transportation infrastructure throughout the United States. More than 1,000 applications from across the nation were evaluated for TIGER II funding.
One of the goals of the TIGER II program was to support economic recovery. The funds were spent in Northwest Arkansas to support businesses and their employees and to contribute to the economic growth and stability of the region. For example, four engineering firms, two property appraisal firms and two small businesses benefited from the grant award.
WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION GRANT
The Walton Family Foundation advocated for and supported the development of trails and greenways in Northwest Arkansas. The foundation’s pledge of $15 million was used to support greenway trail development in Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell and Rogers. The foundation has supported trail development in Bentonville for many years.