A current topic of discussion among many Fort Smith residents has been the parks commission’s decision to support the expansion of the city’s trail system. The committee charged with this task has proposed 35 miles of bike lanes, multi-use trails, and shared, marked lanes, referred to as “sharrows” (clever name, right?). These trails would be connected, continuous, & contiguous paths especially useful for biking and walking. Obviously, this kind of project takes money, so the city has asked voters to consider a renewal of the current street tax and designating up to 5% of it for the trail expansion, which will be voted on in May.
As a young resident of Fort Smith, who would very much like to see the city thrive, I can identify five specific ways in which the expansion of the trail system would benefit the Fort Smith community.
1) It would offer alternative means of transportation.
Don’t you hate it when you have to get in the car to go to the store just down the road? The trail system would eliminate that need by making commute by bicycle, or even by foot, more accessible.
2) It would boost the economy.
Tourists and vacationers looking to enjoy the great outdoors appreciate having access to trails and greenways. A tourist attraction allows for a successful tourist industry, which, in turn, attracts business and creates jobs. An increase in jobs and business would also increase public revenue. I’d say that’s a win-win. Also, trails and greenways can help increase property values and overall community appeal.
3) It would raise environmental consciousness.
Because of the absence of efficient public transportation systems in smaller cities and towns, most Americans own their own cars. Car ownership has also become a romanticized concept engrained into the American culture. I mean, the 16th birthday is a momentous occasion. Unfortunately, cars are a major source of pollution and other various environmental problems. Because the expanded trail system would encourage alternate forms of commute, pollution could be reduced.
4) It would promote an active lifestyle.
Trails and bike paths would provide Fort Smith residents with a safe place away from the hustle and bustle of busy roads to walk, bike, and jog. This would encourage residents to get out and get active! Plus, taking time to enjoy the beauty of nature can reduce your stress and improve your mood. Mental health is even more important than physical health, people!
5) It would appeal to young people.
Let’s face it; my generation esteems the “hipster.” We have a certain appreciation for doing things differently. The phenomenon of lifestyle blogging, instagram food pics with hashtags like “live organic”, and pinterest’s ability to make fitness attractive, has gotten many 20 somethings into living healthier lifestyles –partially because of its health benefits, and partially because it’s trendy. Because of this, the expansion of Fort Smith’s trails and greenways would appeal to young people. Additionally, and on a more serious note, UAFS students have made known their support of the project and the student government association has asked the city to connect the trails and greenways to the university campus. With a university of over 7,000 students, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea for the city of Fort Smith and its residents to consider the younger demographic when making this decision.
-Allison Kyrouac is a UAFS Student and guest Blog Writer for ThingsToDoInFortSmith. Opinions, commentary and other blogs posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of ThingsToDoinFortSmith.com
Connect to the Fort Smith Trails and Greenways Facebook Page, a Fort Smith, AR citizen led committee to raise awareness, seed funds and set priorities for future trail developments in the Fort Smith area. Like page to learn how you can get involved.