Bike trails are a big deal around here.
For the first time, an unbroken thread of paths and trails connects all of the Northwest Arkansas metro, from Bella Vista in the north to Fayetteville at the south end. The cities marked the project’s completion Saturday with a festival of biking, train riding, history walks and food that drew at least a thousand people by my reckoning. A few dozen of them told me the best way to celebrate was riding all 37 miles.
I started the day in Fayetteville, where a couple hundred people gathered in the morning for a bike and train ride to the main event up in Springdale.
But before that, something I didn’t expect: a march, about 40 strong, for Freddie Gray, whose death after being severely injured in police custody sparked protests across the country and has led to criminal charges for six Baltimore officers.
It was a blink-and-you-miss-it deal; I had time for the one photo and they were gone. The cyclists, meanwhile, kept gathering, cheering the train from Springdale when it sounded its horn.
The bunch arrived in Springdale by train or bike half an hour later. More bikers and others flocked in by the hundreds.
Several mayors and other officials gave speeches and thanks to everyone involved; this is a project planned for a decade, under construction for three years and built for $1 million a mile. The speakers touted the trail’s economic impact as well — a topic my co-worker Joel dug into in today’s paper — before leading the crowd in a spirited round of “Woo Pig Sooie.”
Finally, bikers cut the ribbon for the trail at noon.
Not a bad party. Thanks for looking, and take a look at some more photos here, if you like.