Linking Communities through the Razorback Regional Greenway

This case study is a part of Shift Into Gear, a bicycle advocacy resource created by PlayCore and 8 80 Cities. The benefits of cycling are extensive; it benefits people’s health and fitness, promotes societal and community capital, provides economic benefits to the area, enhances the transportation alternatives individuals can choose, and protects the environment. To read additional case studies and download the complete resource, visit our Shift Into Gear page.

“This opens up the region. We can all walk or ride the trail no matter how diverse we are. Our diversity is our strength.” Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville Arkansas Mayor

The Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway is one of the most unique regional urban greenway trails in the United States. The goal of the project was to link together the six communities of Northwest Arkansas (Bentonville, Rogers, Lowell, Springdale, Johnson, and Fayetteville) via a 36-mile long, primarily off-road, 10- to 12-foot wide, hard surfaced trail. The Razorback Greenway links together dozens of key, popular community destinations including six downtown areas, three major hospitals, twenty-three schools, the University of Arkansas, corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart, JB Hunt Transport Services, Tyson Foods, arts and entertainment venues, shopping areas, historic sites, several parks, multiple playgrounds, and residential communities.

A highly-experienced greenway design team (a.k.a. The Green Team), comprised of Alta Planning + Design, Greenways Incorporated, The Greenway Team, Thomas Woiwode, the League of American Bicyclists, and CEI Engineering, was fundamental to the execution and completion of the project. To realize the dream of a long-distance, interconnected, off-road, shared- use greenway trail, the communities of Northwest Arkansas needed to fund both the development of the trail as well as the long-term operations and management of the project.

The Green Team estimated the total project development costs would exceed $38 million. In November 2010, the Razorback Regional Greenway was awarded a $15 million TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant to fund design, acquisition of right-of- way and construction for a designated portion of the Razorback Regional Greenway. The TIGER II Grant was one of 40 national awards made by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Walton Family Foundation agreed to use a $15 million project grant to match the federal grant award. The $30 million in total funding paid for a majority of the trail project, leaving the communities with approximately $8 million in additional funds to raise to fully complete the project. The federally funded portion of the Razorback Regional Greenway extended approximately 16 miles from the north end of Lake Fayetteville to the Pinnacle Hills Mall in Rogers.

The Green Team completed the design development documents for the Greenway Trail. This work included surveying, preparation of construction documents, obtaining permits and right-of-way, and awarding of construction contracts. The communities of Fayetteville and Johnson worked together to build the Clear Creek Greenway and Frisco Greenway portions of the Razorback Greenway.

Interestingly, the Razorback Regional Greenway was already serving as an economic engine for development. In addition to the jobs created in the implementation of such a system, the trail also could potentially generate millions of dollars in economic gain. Businesses have been moving to the trail, and more people are looking for real estate near the greenway system. Real estate values are already beginning to increase as a result of the completed greenway. Moreover, the regional greenway system has been attracting tourists to the region, creating a greater need for service and retail industries.

The regional greenway system has also been positively bene ting environmental change. Several groups in the area have been working to restore disturbed landscapes and to install additional landscaping so that the greenway improves overall quality of the environment. Furthermore, the Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP) has been instrumental in offering public education and community outreach. Other practices they have implemented are greenway trailheads and signage that educate the public about where they live, work, and play in relation to the Illinois River Watershed. Another goal of the Razorback Regional Greenway was to provide an educational opportunity by connecting local schools along the route. Young students have the chance to become more engaged with the environment in a personal way as they observe streams, landscapes and wildlife. Even more importantly, the regional greenway also provides an enjoyable and safe alternative form of transportation, reducing emissions from automobiles and decreasing traffic congestion.

In addition to providing access to safe, accessible, and attractive places to bike, walk, hike, jog, skate, and enjoy water-based trails, the Razorback Regional Greenway also promotes a healthier Northwest Arkansas. The Endeavor Foundation, a charitable community foundation that connects people and organizations with ideas and resources, has been and continues to be very involved in the promotion of the trail system. Anita Schism, President and CEO of the foundation, states, “We work to improve the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas. We really think that the regional greenway is critical to that piece of improving our quality of life here.” The foundation recently launched a new healthy active living initiative known as EnergizeNWA. Schism adds, “I think building on the success of the greenway, Endeavor will be able to support programs and amenities and infrastructure to help connect the trails to the greenway to make active and healthy lifestyles accessible for everyone in our region.”