Pioneer Wilderness Bike Trail grand opening set for March 29

Pioneer Wilderness Bike Trail grand opening set for March 29

Fri Mar 3, 2023 at 08:33 AM

Even with Mother Nature throwing in over a foot of snow, a sheet of ice and heavy rains during construction, work on the Pioneer Wilderness Bike Trail has finished. The community partners who brought the trail to fruition have announced the official grand opening ceremony, which is set for Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. The ceremony will occur near the softball field on the North Arkansas College (Northark) South Campus. Should inclement weather prevent an outdoor ceremony, the event will occur in the JPH Conference Center.

The trail is a joint effort between Northark, Boone County and the Boone County Extension Service, HEART (Harrison Exercise, Adventure and Recreational Trails), the City of Harrison and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Harrison schools, The Trailblazers and the Walton Family Foundation, NICA Arkansas and many other individuals and businesses in our community.

A quick history: In early 2022 Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson, whose priority was to enhance quality of life in the community, appointed a committee to design a Master Trail System that would link the college, public schools, downtown Harrison, the park system and both business/industrial areas and neighborhoods. In just over six months the committee submitted its recommendations for the Master Trail Plan to the City. The City Council is expected to approve the plan at its March meeting.

Mayor Jackson also asked the group to identify mountain bike trail sites that would link to the Master Trail. The committee identified several and determined its number one priority as land owned by Northark and adjoining land owned by Boone County. The college and the county had already worked together to build and maintain a cross-country course on the land. Northark also built a popular disc golf course there.

When the committee approached Northark and Boone County leaders, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. It reached out to the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) Arkansas chapter and asked for advice in developing a 2.5-mile trail that would be approved for NICA events. Harrison School Superintendent, Dr. Stewart Pratt, came on board to enthusiastically support mountain biking as a school sport and pledged to reach out to other area schools to come alongside Harrison.

The committee then organized itself as HEART (Harrison Exercise, Adventure and Recreational Trails), a not-for-profit corporation registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State. HEART submitted a grant application to the Walton Family Foundation. The Foundation has been the driving force behind hundreds of miles of bike trails in Northwest Arkansas and has an emphasis on NICA-approved courses. The Foundation committed $100,000 to fund the project. Working with the county and college, HEART wasted no time in getting the course designed and built. Jagged Axe Trail Builders of Eureka Springs finished the trail in late December. NICA-Arkansas has already scheduled two events in August that will bring hundreds of youth riders and their families to Harrison!

The purpose of the Grand Opening is to thank all those involved and to build momentum for future trails in the Harrison area. Speakers at the ceremony will be Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway, Northark College President Dr. Rick Massengale, Gary Vernon of the Walton Family Foundation and others.  Please join us to celebrate how our community has worked together with a shared vision of enhancing the quality of life for our citizens.

North Arkansas College is committed to providing an educational and work environment for its students, faculty, and staff that is free from sexual discrimination including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence. No form of sexual discrimination will be tolerated. See the full North Arkansas College Title IX Policy and Procedures for the specific definitions of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including examples of such conduct.