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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista Steven Gonzalez, 9, left, helps his father, Mario Yarnell-Gonzales, decorate his bicycle with balloons and streamers for the bike parade.

A crowd of colorful cycles under riders of all ages rolled down the recently finished concrete path into Bella Vista, slipping under a new high-visibility crosswalk and near a verdant creek bank before crossing the line into Bentonville.

People gathered at Blowing Springs last Saturday, July 28, to celebrate the completion of a new portion of the Razorback Greenway that stretches north and finally brings the trail system into Bella Vista.

Mayor Peter Christie thanked the Walton Family Foundation, which funded the approximately $1 million project, as well as NWA Trailblazers, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, the POA and Cooper Elementary for their parts in the roughly one-mile Greenway section.

While the city's soft surface trails are an excellent amenity, he said, paved trails are important because they're more accessible and provide for both recreation and transportation.

"It really is a festive occasion," Christie said. "This is a big deal for Bella Vista."

Going forward, he said, the Mercy Way Bridge project is going to include a lane for bicycle and pedestrian traffic that will allow the Greenway to cross Little Sugar Creek, and the trail may continue north on land currently occupied by the closed portion of the Berksdale golf course.

After giving his thanks and discussing the new trail's impact and future, the mayor hefted a massive pair of scissors and snapped them shut over a red ribbon. When they opened again it was still intact, but a second attempt snapped the stubborn fabric in two.

Those gathered for the ribbon cutting started a bike parade moments later, flooding the path and heading south.

At the end of the parade route, Bella Vista resident Billy Estes chatted with some friends and his family about the short trip south.

"It's awesome, I think the greenway is a pretty neat deal," he said. "Lots of friends are made out here."

Estes said he's ridden all his life and started mountain biking about six years ago. He came out to celebrate the trail section opening with his three kids, wife and several friends. After the festivities, he said, it was a good time for a ride.

"We're planning to take it up to the square and have some ice cream," he said.

Erin Rushing, director of NWA Trailblazers, said that he's been working on this trail since the design started about three-and-a-half years ago. He worked with four property owners for permission and right-of-way for the trails, helped to secure funding for a streambank restoration project that should prevent Little Sugar Creek from eroding into the trail, among numerous other details.

"It came out awesome," he said.

The next phase, once the Mercy Way Bridge is rebuilt, will take the trail north to Riordan Road, which could provide better access to some of Bella Vista's restaurants and other businesses, Rushing said.

Among those celebrating were Jim Bell, who said he has been riding for the past four years, and his grandson, Kayson Bell, 11, who learned to ride this year.

"He just got a new bike," Jim Bell said, motioning to his grandson. "So him and I are starting to ride together on the trails."

He lives near Blowing Springs already, so this makes the Greenway a lot more accessible, he said. Often he turns laps around Lake Bella Vista, though he's also signed up for the upcoming Square 2 Square ride, which will go from Bentonville to Fayetteville.

For the group ride, he said, he and his grandson were going to go as far as they could.

Bell said he's glad that the community has worked to make these trails happen.

"This is really great," he said. "I think we're really fortunate to have a lot of people involved in this."

General News on 08/01/2018

Print Headline: Greenway reaches Bella Vista

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