#4 News Story: Parks commission approves new downhill mountain bike courses

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission

spent much of the fall negotiating with the

Walton Family Foundation to create new downhill

mountain bike courses at Lake Leatherwood City

Park.

The commission approved a cooperative agreement

with the Walton Family Foundation on Nov.

21 to build the downhill feature. That decision

came after the commission’s Oct. 17 vote to allow

parks director Justin Huss to negotiate trail-specific

grants at a 10 percent match up to $100,000, including

a heritage inventory at Lake Leatherwood.

Parks director Justin Huss addressed citizens at

a public meeting Dec. 5, where he said biking and

hiking trails have been a part of Eureka Springs for

a long time. The biking trails are prominent during

the Fat Tire Festival, he said, but it wasn’t until

recently that parks decided to promote the downhill

mountain bike courses at Lake Leatherwood.

That’s because mountain biking is blowing up,

Huss said.

The parks commission has been working on connecting

the in-town trails system this year, Huss

said, so visitors and locals can get from place to

place on foot or on their bike. The commission is

still focusing on that, he said, but the focus has

shifted a bit after the Walton Family Foundation

agreed to work on adding more downhill courses at

Lake Leatherwood. The courses would be located

near the Miner’s Rock Trail, Huss said.

“One of the advantages of the area is it’s not

well-suited for anything else,” he said. “It’s loose.

It’s hard to walk on, and it doesn’t grow a ton of

things on every area.”

While looking through the plans with the foundation,

he said, the commission saw a few problems

in the area. There’s a part of the trail the city

doesn’t own, Huss said, but

the foundation has already

purchased two properties in

the area to secure the rights

to build the courses. Another

problem, he said, is the

environmental impact of

the project. Huss said the

commission agreed to complete

a heritage inventory at

Lake Leatherwood before

moving forward with new work there, saying the

environment is important to him.

“We had to pump the brakes a little bit. We

wanted to get everything in order,” Huss said. “We

wanted the disposition of the property taken care

of before we authorized anything to go forward.”

The new downhill courses will feature a shuttle

to the top, Huss said, and a landing pad for helicopters

in case of a medical emergency. Huss described

what the commission has been keeping in

mind throughout the project, saying parks needs

to secure a permanent recreational easement for

public access on the land used for the courses, ensure

safety where the courses intersect with hiking

trails and exercise best practices for low-impact

development and storm water run-off.

“All work will be approved by me. Thisis with

the help of other people and committees that come

in,” Huss said.

He’s already approved one course, Huss said.

“We only approved that line. We said, ‘We can

agree on that one. We can get you started,’ ” Huss

said. “We’re not going to approve anything else

until we do that.”

Adding these courses, Huss said, will make Lake

Leatherwood even more of an attraction when it

comes to events like the Fat Tire Festival.“It’s an extreme sport. We see that

with Fat Tire, with regular trail usage all

the time,” Huss said. “Having this helipad

at the top is actually going to be an

advantage. It’s much more controlled.”

As the commission works on the new

courses, Huss said, he plans to move

forward with the in-town trails in mind.

“That’s still our goal. We’ll still be

working on it. You’ll notice a lot going

on this year,” Huss said. “They say,

‘Life’s what happens when you were

busy making plans.’ We were planning

this in-town trail, and this opportunity

arose. Since we had the planning processes

in there, really this fast forwards

us. It puts the accelerator down for a lot

of projects at parks.”

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