HELENA-WEST HELENA – The 84.5-mile Delta Heritage Trail will be completed between Lexa and Arkansas City thanks to foundation and state grants.
The Walton Family Foundation said it will make a $20 million matching grant to complete the project.
“This is great news for cyclists and hikers, who have waited more than 20 years for the completion of this rails-to-trails project. The matching grant we announced, combined with Arkansas Parks and Tourism funds, means that the wait is almost over," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
"The $7 million in tourism that the 85-mile trail will attract, along with the 600 jobs it will create, will infuse renewed energy into southeast Arkansas along the trail. Hikers and bikers will see bottomland hardwood forests and views from the levee that we don’t see from our cars. This is a great project for Arkansas."
The 50/50 matching grant will allow Arkansas State Parks to complete the construction of the Delta Heritage Trail over the next five years. The state is applying for federal grants to offset the match. This will create a $40 million investment in the Arkansas Delta.
“The Delta Heritage Trail will connect the region’s expansive natural beauty and create new ways to experience its unique cultural offerings,” said Jim Walton, Walton Family Foundation. “This joint effort is a dream nearly 30 years in the making, a bold idea now being realized in a community that, with continued support, can reach its enormous, untapped potential.”
There are currently 44.4 completed miles in The Delta Heritage Trail State Park.
This includes a 20.6-mile compacted crush gravel section between Lexa and Elaine, a 14.4-mile shared-use roadway on the Mississippi River levee between Rohwer and Arkansas City, and another 9.4-mile compacted crush gravel section between Rohwer and Watson.
Portions of the project are former railroad lines that are converted to bike/pedestrian routes. The compacted, crushed rock trail leads visitors through a variety of natural settings.
From the shaded canopy of native hardwoods to the vast open skies alongside agricultural fields, guests can enjoy the Arkansas Delta. Ultimately, this trail will be 84.5 miles when completed and will be one of the longest dedicated pedestrian and bicycle routes in Arkansas.
“The original Delta Heritage Trail Master Plan was approved in 1997 and in 2020, it’s still not complete,” said Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst. “Because of this generous matching gift, we’ll be able to complete the Delta Heritage Trail in five years providing an enhanced recreational opportunity for residents, bringing more visitors to the area, and increased economic growth to local communities. The completed trail will provide users a unique glimpse into the rich history and natural beauty of the Arkansas Delta.”
The grant includes funding to support a plan for public recognition of the life and professional accomplishments of John Harold Johnson (1918-2005). Johnson was born in Arkansas City and rose above abject poverty and racial discrimination to build Johnson Publishing Company. It became the largest African American owned and operated publishing company in the world and launched Ebony and Jet magazines.
Work has already started and will continue until all sections of the trail are connected.
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