Designing between 10 to 12 miles of bike trails at Riverside Park is getting underway after the Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission approved a request last week for $10,000 to hire a designer who is well-known in the state, according to Searcy Parks and Recreation Director Mike Parsons.

Parsons said Martin Smith with Ecological Design Group “was presented to us to help design biking-hiking trails out there” at Riverside Park. “Compared to other prices we got, this was not bad at all and also this gentleman, Martin Smith, his name is widely known through Arkansas with biking-hiking trails. He is out of northwest Arkansas.”

Seeing Smith’s name on one of Searcy’s projects would be “a very good thing,” Parsons said, noting that he is well respected with those involved with the 50/50 playground grants that Searcy Parks and Recreation applies for each year. Parsons said Smith was also “tied in with the Waltons,” the founders of Walmart.

“When this project gets completed, it’s going to bring people from all over the state,” Parsons said.

A&P Chairman Chris Howell asked Parsons what parameters were being put on Smith for the design work.

“Are you all giving him a clean slate, saying, ‘Hey, do what you want to do and let’s see what you come back with. Are you saying, ‘We want 50 acres of bike trail?’ What parameters are you putting on him, if any?”

Parsons and Mayor Kyle Osborne responded together, “the whole park.”

“We need somewhere between 10 and 12 miles of bike trails/hike trails through the new Riverside that we’ve acquired,” Osborne said. “Try to get that amount.”

Howell asked, “We are talking like mountain bikes?” Parsons said, “Yes, it is huge right now.”

Howell said he was in Bentonville a month or so ago and was amazed at the amount of bikes on the backs of cars in that area.

A&P Commissioner Rees Jones said, “I know this has been in the works for a long time so I’m excited to see some movement on this.” Jones made the motion to approve the funding and it was approved unanimously.

In February of last year, the Searcy City Council approved the last $50,000 needed to acquire 49.02 acres adjacent to Riverside Park after the A&P Commission contributed $50,000 plus closing fees. The Searcy Regional Economic Development Corp. had purchased the land for $400,963. 68 through private donations in hopes that it could be combined with Riverside Park to make it a 147-acre park.

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