Written by Todd Gill
Mountain bikers will soon have a new place to ride in Fayetteville.
Preliminary work is underway to transform midtown’s Gregory Park into a mountain bike-focused area complete with a series of singletrack mountain biking trails, and a possible pump track and skills course.
The 19-acre wooded park, located on Sycamore Street just west of North College Avenue, was donated to the city by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 1964. It includes a pavilion, picnic area and a 0.6-mile nature trail that has been damaged in several places from erosion.
Members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board earlier this year approved a proposal from Ozark Off-Road Cyclists to replace the damaged trail with a new multi-use path on the outer edge of the property, and to build a beginner- and intermediate-level mountain bike flow trail near the middle of the park.
Brannon Pack, executive director of OORC, said the underutilized park’s central location and proximity to neighborhoods and schools make it a perfect place for a new trail system.
“From an accessibility and usability standpoint, this will be a gem for the city of Fayetteville,” Pack said. “We believe this property is ideal for graduated flow trails offering skill level progression while still maintaining a circuitous, multi-use trail system for local hiking and biking traffic.”
Pack said area schools, including nearby Woodland Junior High, could use the park to introduce mountain biking as part of their physical education curriculum, or even develop their own National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) teams.
Alison Jumper, the city’s park planning superintendent, said maintenance of the park and trails would come through an agreement with OORC.
“That just insures that (the trails) remain open to the public,” Jumper said. “Because we sometimes get facilities open but are strapped for maintenance time, so we’d hate to put something out there and not have people be able to use it.”
Pack agreed and said maintenance would come from OORC volunteers and others in the local business community through the city’s Adopt-A-Park program. Pack said he’s already received verbal commitments for volunteer help from two nearby businesses – Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters and Creative Awards.
Chris Lankford, who lives across the street from Gregory Park on Greenvalley Avenue, said he’s excited about the project.
“I love everything about this,” Lankford said. “I’m all for any kind of development that can help clean up and bring some activity to the park.”
Lankford said removal of the thick underbrush and added maintenance on the land will help improve the security of the surrounding neighborhoods and help to minimize suspicious activity within the park.
OORC this month held two volunteer work days to help clear the trail corridor and remove invasive species, including bush honeysuckle and briar that stretch across the parkland. A third volunteer event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 31.
Pack said future grant funds are expected to pay for the actual construction work needed to build the trails, which would come sometime next year. Future phases of work, if approved, would include the pump track, skills course, and other infrastructure improvements such as parking upgrades and a crosswalk on Sycamore Street.