Bike trail development makes better communities

June 25, 2015

by Sarah Thomas + Dallas Jamme, East Coast event crew

Dallas riding over a skinny on the Seed Tick trail in Bentonville, AR.

All around the country, people are doing inspirational things to make bicycling better in their own communities. As one of the traveling event crews for PeopleForBikes, we have visited numerous bike retailers (as well as breweries and cafes) throughout the U.S. Everywhere we go, we encounter hardworking people who want to make their homes better places for people to ride, whether through building mountain bike trails, advocating for protected bike lanes or simply supporting or sponsoring local bike clubs and events.

The most unexpected story we?ve heard thus far is that of Bentonville, AR. For a town whose claim to fame is being home to Walmart headquarters and the Walton family, we were surprised to learn that it also harbors an extensive network of bike trails.

During a visit to Cycles Unlimited in Springfield, MO, owner Ashley Burchfield convinced us that we had to stop there on our way to Tulsa, OK. He told us that the ?Walmart kids? were huge mountain biking enthusiasts and were trying to build and connect multi-use trails all around their hometown.

Upon our arrival in Bentonville, we stopped in to Phat Tire Bike Shop. The manager, Scott Schroen, was a great resource for learning about the local trails. He even offered to lend us two mountain bikes so we could explore the trails for ourselves. We were happy to take him up on that offer and go ride for a few hours. From where we were parked downtown, the nearest trail entrance was only a few blocks away. A paved bike trail called the Razorback Greenway runs for more than 30 miles connecting Bentonville to five other nearby towns as well as three phases of mountain bike trails called the Slaughter Pen Trails, just north of downtown. These trails have more than 20 miles of unpaved singletrack and include everything from beginner trails to technical and hilly terrain. In addition to supporting trail building in Bentonville, the Walton family has granted $15 million towards greenway development in Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell and Rogers, AR.

The family and community leaders realize the tremendous economic development that can come from a vibrant and connected trail system. Bentonville is a town you want to live in and return to visit.

Sarah biking on one of the Slaughter Pen trails.

Just off Razorback Greenway is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that Scott highly recommended. We stopped there on our way back to the bike shop and walked around for the last half hour before they closed. There are some big names in art there, from Pablo Picasso to Georgia O?Keefe, and a nice sculpture garden outside with some walking trails around the park. Like many other things in Bentonville, this museum is totally free to explore and funded by the Walton family.

We couldn?t leave Bentonville without stopping at the Walmart Museum. We walked through the museum to learn about how Sam Walton made his fortune. The end of the museum has an old-fashioned soda fountain where you can buy Yarnell’s ice cream for old-fashioned prices. We each enjoyed a sweet ice cream cone for $2.25.

Since joining the PeopleForBikes team, we have been pleasantly surprised by the strength and connectedness within the bicycling community. As we travel and meet even more people within this community, our experiences continue to reinforce what we have felt over the past few years. We still run across surprises like Bentonville, and we hope that there are more instances of generous families like the Waltons getting behind a cause that’s so important to us as bicyclists.

Sam Walton’s pickup truck in front of the Walmart Museum.

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