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Northwoods Trails in Arkansas has strong opening

December 24, 2018

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — About a month after its grand opening, the Northwoods Trails have seen constant activity that’s not expected to slow down anytime soon, according to the trail coordinator.

Traci Berry, trail coordinator for the Northwoods, said the steady visitation prompted the need for increased parking to accommodate trail users.

“We’ve had a lot of pretty weekends since we’ve been open,” she told The Sentinel-Record . “The weather has been super kind to us and you go down there to the trailhead and people are just parked everywhere. People waiting on a parking space to come open. So we had to do some work down there because there’s definitely still some areas that we want to keep people off, so we have expanded the parking and added some spaces.

“We’ve added a little bit of parking on the side of Pineland for people. You go out there and on a day like that, you can park it at one of the hubs where all the trails meet and meet people from Texas, Michigan, Louisiana, Conway — all over the state and outside of the state. It’s really cool and they’re just loving the trails.”

The trails were closed recently due to wet conditions, Berry said, which is to preserve the integrity of the trails.

“We had over 2 inches of rain and on some of those trails sometimes, especially cross-country trails, they drain really well and you don’t have to worry about it as much,” she said. “But on the jump lines and the flow trails, the way that they are built with the berms and the table tops, different things, when you have that much rain, you can really cause some significant damage. We don’t want to destroy something we just built and it’s not cheap to repair, either.”

While winter is a time when many mountain bikers get out and ride, Berry said they are taking each day as it comes as far as preparing for inclement weather. Riders are encouraged to keep track of the Northwoods’ Facebook page and trail conditions group for updates, she said.

“We have our social media pages where we can post notices about anything,” Berry said. “We won’t always close all the trails. There might be instances where we just close the jump lines and the flow trails. It’s just all really dependent and you just never know.”

Berry said because trees are dormant this time of year, if the water table is saturated then any rainfall can cause serious damage to the trails.

“When it rains even a half an inch, that can do a lot because the ground isn’t soaking it up, the trees aren’t soaking it up,” she said. “It takes longer to move through the soil. Then, of course, if it’s overcast or if the sun is out. There’s just so many different variables that go into it, it’s really a day-to-day thing and until we can get out there on the trails to see how it’s affected them, it might be it rains overnight and we go out there first thing to let people know ‘Please don’t get on the trails.’

“We just hope that people are responsible trail users and know that there’s just certain times that you shouldn’t be out there.”

To continue preserving the trail system moving forward, Visit Hot Springs recently named Jake Meredith as trail system specialist.

“Until we get the trails completed ... I’ll be working directly with IMBA for the next few years helping them build what is left of the trails, kind of learning the tricks of the trade,” Meredith said. “After that, they really kind of want to train me and make sure I understand how they build trails. They have so much invested here that they want to make sure they’re maintained like they should be.”

But it’s not just mountain bikers utilizing the new trails.

“Almost every time that I’m out there, I see a handful of hikers,” Berry said. “The majority of the trails out there are multiuse for foot and bike travel, but like the jump lines and flow trails are ones that we ask hikers not to be on. Those are trails that you have your riders that are going to be coming through fast and they’re directional. They’re one way, top to bottom.

“There’s signage there, too, that has your hiker symbol with a slash through it. But I have seen probably a handful of hikers each time I’ve been out there.”

The trails have also introduced a whole new group of riders to mountain biking, which Berry said is really one of the ultimate goals.

“Every time I turn around, people in the community who have never mountain biked before are talking about how they’re going to buy a bike and get into mountain biking,” she said. “This is really about bringing people in, but more so than that, too, it’s about doing something for the people that are already here. I think that, to me, is even bigger than the tourism piece of it is what we’re doing for the community here in Hot Springs.”

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Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com

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