Local park trail may boost regional economy

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro was full of people on Thursday.

People gathered together to celebrate the completion of a 3.2-mile trail and new road in the park.

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said the project is another jewel in the city's crown.

"With this 3.2-mile walking trail," Perrin said. "We have doubled and even tripled our attendance out here. The reason for that is it's safe for people to walk as well as use their bicycles here in this park. So, it's a tremendous deal."

Perrin said the project is something that will help pull more people to the area.

"I think this is great," Perrin said. "One of the biggest things about economic development and recruiting people to your community is to give them something for recreation and for safety and for health. And this is going to be a great deal. I'm going to come out here and walk the whole thing myself."

Perrin said this project would not have been possible without the help and involvement of others.

"This could not be done by just the city of Jonesboro," Perrin said. "All of our partners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Highway Department, Federal Highway Department and the Parks and Recreation Department were all a part of this."

One of the organizations responsible for making the project possible was the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Scott Bennett, who is the director of ARDOT, said this was something they wanted to help make happen.

"Anytime we see the completion of a project such as this," Bennett said. "It really highlights that we are more than a Highway Department. We are a true Department of Transportation because we are able to participate in the completion of a trail system. It's for pedestrians, it's for bicycles and it's something that will really enhance their quality of life for the citizens of Jonesboro and the surrounding areas."

Bennett said it's about keeping people safe.

"What was important to us," Bennett said. "Is the ability to have the trails contained in a park really. And to be able to provide an opportunity for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy those types of activities of the highway system and get them out of the mix of vehicular traffic. To really increase safety."

Perrin said a lot of people made the project what it is today.

"This project took about three years," Perrin said. "We got our funding over a three-year period from the Highway Department from the TAB grant. We didn't know if we were going to get it or not, but we were fortunate enough to show them what we were doing and they just kept on funding that. Then Blue and You came in and said you know what you need exercise equipment. So, it just kept on rolling. But we coordinated this effort with all of our partners here today."

"To see it open," Bennett said. "And to be able to see people start to enjoy the fruits of everyone's labor and the fruits of the vision that local leaders have had is really a nice day."

Perrin said they're not done yet.

"We've got more plans we're going to do for this park," Perrin said. "When we voted this last Tuesday to purchase the 40 acres, once the shooting range is done that gives us 19 acres plus the 40 and we're now designing some things to go in there. So, we'll be having public hearings to ask people what they'd like to see there."

For more information about Craighead Forest Park, click here.

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