Rails-to-Trails Improvements


Initiative Fractal's fifth initiative was to encourage and assist with efforts to make the northernmost section of the Lawrence County Rails-to-Trails more inviting. The trail, a former BNSF spur line to the Walnut Ridge airport, is owned by Lawrence County and runs 6.7 miles from Hoxie to the Walnut Ridge Industrial Park. Within the last decade, the majority of the trail has been paved, and the final section, which will include a new trailhead in College City, is scheduled to be completed soon. Various organizations have also adopted sections of the trail over the last several years. Williams Baptist University has adopted the section between Highway 67 and Miller Road, and due to its proximity to College City this will be the section that IF focused its efforts on.

For this project especially, IF partnered with other groups to discuss and implement various improvements. The City of Walnut Ridge was a huge help in this endeavor, installing bike-friendly vehicle barriers at the north trailhead even before this initiative was announced. In early October 2016, IF and WBU sponsored two cleanups to clear and sweep the Miller Rd to Hwy 67 section, which had become overgrown after a series of heavy rains. A quarter-mile into the trail, the handrails of a wooden trail bridge were destroyed in a windstorm and were submerged in the creek below; In a later cleanup, volunteers extracted some of the timbers from the water and placed salvageable pieces underneath the sides of the bridge for reuse. Even with all the progress made, there is still plenty more to do; other unfinished goals included placing signage near the entrances to the trail and deck repairs to one of the bridges.

In summer 2016 Walnut Ridge installed new vehicle barriers on the Miller Road trailhead.

The bridge which had its handrails removed by winds.

The trail passes over several creeks and through the countryside on its way to Walnut Ridge. While the secluded nature of the trail has sometimes presented a challenge, renewed volunteer and governmental efforts have ensured that the trail remains accessible and convenient.