PINEVILLE, Mo. — Imagine Northwest Arkansas' popular Razorback Greenway one day rolling into Southwest Missouri.
That's the hope of some Missourians, minus perhaps the word "Razorback."
The Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission have scheduled a meeting for Monday, March 6, to hear from residents of McDonald County as they work on developing a bicycling and pedestrian plan to connect Jane and Pineville to the expanding trail network in Northwest Arkansas.
The 37-mile Razorback Greenway is the backbone of a 100-mile trail network in Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas, and it connects major destinations such as the University of Arkansas, malls and shopping centers, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, as well as headquarters for major employers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Right now, the trail ends at Lake Bella Vista, but future extensions include taking it 8 or so miles north to the state line, said Tim Conklin, assistant director of the Northwest Arkansas planning group.
That extension is just one of 17 "catalyst" projects the group envisions that would further link trail users to other attractions and destinations in the region, including the kayak park in Siloam Springs, Arkansas; the historic Pea Ridge National Military Park in eastern Benton County; and even taking the trail south from Fayetteville for another 12 miles to West Fork, closer to Devil's Den State Park.
"It's an economic boon," Nikki Hill, transportation planner for the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council, said of the Razorback Greenway. "People are coming there from all over the country. Now they have all these wonderful amenities. We can really piggyback off of it."
Gregg Sweeten, mayor of Pineville, said: "We want to go and tie this together. I think this would be a strong economic boost for Pineville and McDonald County.
"We're working on three of our own trails here in town and we would love to be able to tie those in."
He said cyclists regularly come up from Northwest Arkansas, and added: "It would grow tenfold if we could give them a safer place (to ride)."
Hill, with the Coordinating Council, said the public workshop set for March 6 "is the very, very young steps of a regional plan" for McDonald County.
"It's little pieces at a time that if all goes well grow into a spiderweb of trails. Eventually, we want to connect Fayetteville to Joplin."
The Coordinating Council is a regional planning commission that covers four Southwest Missouri counties — Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission covers Benton and Washington counties as well as McDonald County.
The groups do not build trails themselves, but work with communities to develop long-range, comprehensive plans that include adding and connecting such features as trails.
"What we do is find grants to help cities or counties fund these trails," Hill added.
Northwest Arkansas, which topped a half-million people in population in 2015, has been able to tap grants from the Walton Family Foundation to help cover some of its costs to develop both natural surface trails, such as those for mountain biking, and hard surface routes, and it has paid off. Last fall, the International Mountain Biking Association held its world summit in Bentonville. U.S. News and World Report also recently ranked Northwest Arkansas fifth on its list of "Best Places to Live," and cited, among other things, its trail network.
McDonald County, by the way, is officially part of the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; the city of Pineville and McDonald County are also members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.
Tying into Northwest Arkansas' success could be "monumental" for Southwest Missouri communities, Hill said.
In fact, she said, the logo for the trail network in Arkansas is being modified to include Southwest Missouri.
"He (Tim Conklin) is taking the walk/bike Northwest Arkansas logo and changing it to walk/bike Arkansas and Missouri and adding the McDonald County outline to the top of it," she said. "It solidifies a partnership."
Want to go?
The public meeting to discuss a bicycle and pedestrian plan for McDonald County that would be connected to the Razorback Greenway in Northwest Arkansas is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 6, at the Pineville Community Center, 602 S. Jesse James Road.