A $1.186 million grant frrom the Walton Family Foundation will expand the Big River Trail 30 miles, from the southern end of the levee trail in Marianna through downtown Helena-West Helena and westward to the Arkansas Heritage Trail.

The trail system runs atop the Mississippi River levee system.

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Terry Eastin, executive director of the Big River Strategic Initiative, said the project will encourage tourism and the economy in small towns. From a release:

“The Helena expansion of the Big River Trail system will reinforce Arkansas’ rise as a national powerhouse in trail building, as well as improve the communities in Phillips County by supporting the tourism economy,” said Walton Family Foundation Associate Program Officer Angela Shirey. 

The new segment should open by the end of 2019. It will provide opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing and dining along the way, with passage through a national forest and across Crowley’s Ridge.

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The path through the St. Francis National Forest will include paving and striping, signs and other safety measuires to reduce vehicle speeds to ensure cyclists’ safety.

From downtown Helena, the trail turns west on country roads to Highway 300, where it will eventually connect to the Arkansas Delta Heritage Trail, a 100+-mile trail, with 29 miles constructed, leading to Arkansas City and managed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

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The new path will link up with trails that lead to the Big River Crossing, a pedestrian bike bridge in West Memphis.

More here on the Big River Trail.