Parks OKs new downhill mountain bike recreation area

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lake Leatherwood City Park is going

downhill in a good way.

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, the Eureka Springs

Parks and Recreation Commission voted to

approve a cooperative agreement between

the commission and the Walton Family

Foundation to build a new downhill feature

for mountain bikers at the park.

Parks director Justin Huss recalled when

the commission asked Huss to negotiate

trail-specific grants at a 10 percent match

up to $100,000, including a heritage inventory

at Lake Leatherwood. Huss said he’s

been working with the Walton Foundation

since that meeting to get the trail project going,

saying the foundation wants to expand

the downhill course for mountain bikers

near the Miner’s Rock Trail.

“Miner’s Rock has several concerns,”

Huss said.

It’s not on city property, he said, and the

proposed downhill expansion would intersect

with the trail in several places.

“They’ve offered up a few solutions. We

haven’t cared for any of them yet, because

we feel this is an iconic trail and that’s

something that needs to be addressed and

incorporated and can be done,” Huss said.

The project is cooperative, he said, where

the commission commits $50,000 to work

on the Miner’s Rock route to add bridges

and flyovers. The new downhill courses

and drop-in location improvements will

allow for shuttles to take riders from the

bottom to the top of the course, Huss said,

for enduro-style races and recreational use.

“They wanted to start weeks ago,”

Huss said. “This is a multi-year deal. This

is something we’ll be doing for four, five

years.”

Huss presented some information from

the heritage inventory to the commission,

pointing out existing glades at Lake Leatherwood.

Commissioner Steven Foster said

a glade is a unique habitat with herbaceous

species.

“These glades have existed basically

since flowering plants first evolved on the

planet,” Foster said.

Foster said he supports the new downhill

courses but not because he wants to bring

tourists to the park.

“I don’t care about the tourists and I

don’t care about tourism. My interest is in

the biological and environmental integrity

of Lake Leatherwood City Park and not

only its biological assets but its natural history

assets as well,” Foster said.

Aaron Rodgers will be designing the

trail, Foster said, and he’s excited about

that. Rodgers has a botany degree, Foster

said.

“One of the specialties of his company is

low-impact development,” Foster said.

Huss said more downhill courses will

make Eureka Springs stand out as a destination

for mountain bikers from all over the

country.

“When I was at New Orleans at the parks

and recreation conference … this is what

people are building,” Huss said. “There’s

places in Virginia where they’re building

three. To be able to shuttle people to the top

as they’re riding is not only the key aspect

of this enduro-racing stuff they’re doing,

but it’s also potential for revenue.”

No matter what happens, Huss said, he

plans to keep the integrity of Miner’s Rock.

“We want to preserve as much of the actual

trail as we can and what we can’t preserve

of that, we want to mimic and honor

in what we do,” Huss said.

Chairman Bill Featherstone said he’s

completely behind the idea.

“The downhill racers … they’re the

skateboarders of mountain bikers. They’re

the snowboarders of mountain bikers,”

Featherstone said. “They’re the ones on the

edge looking for excitement. It’s a growing

part of mountain biking in general.”

Commissioner Ferguson Stewart agreed.

“We’re not only looking at bringing in

a large quantity of individuals, but they’re

going to stay for other things,” Stewart said.

“It gives us something a little different,”

Huss said.

Commissioner Ruth Hager moved to approve

the cooperative agreement, and the

commission agreed to do so.

The commission’s next regular meeting

is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, at

The Auditorium.

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