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Unique Trail System to Link Six Communities

The project required six different construction approvals - and that was only the beginning of the challenges faced.

Wed April 03, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed

The 36-mi. (58 km) long Razorback Regional Greenway is using phased construction to link together six communities in northwest Arkansas — Bentonville, Rogers, Lowell, Springdale, Johnson and Fayetteville — with a hard surfaced 10 to 12 ft. (3 to 3.5 m) wide trail. Primarily off-road, it passes through these communities, taking advantage of undeveloped land and in some cases restoring and revitalizing underutilized urban landscapes. As a result residents may look forward to increased connectivity, a boost to economic development, and the area becoming a more attractive place to live and work.

Chuck Flink, Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FASLA), president of Alta/Greenways, Durham, N.C., led the design team for their client, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. He has been involved in planning and designing Greenways for the Grand Canyon, the Miami River, Philadelphia’s Northern Delaware River Greenway, and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, N.C.

Flink described this Greenway as “one of the most unique regional trail projects in the United States.”

Sixteen mi. of the Greenway have been funded by a $15 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The Walton Family Foundation is contributing a $3.75 million grant, a 20 percent local match for the TIGER II grant.

Flink described the unique design challenges of the project.

“The project spans six different jurisdictions and requires the design team to obtain separate construction approvals from all of the communities,” he said. “Topography is one of the most important physical challenges. The karst landscape of northwest Arkansas has forced the design team to select a route and alignment for the trail that minimizes impact to the native environment. Consequently, significant portions of the trail will be built parallel or in close proximity to existing roads.

“While some of the Greenway construction is straightforward and involves traditional building techniques, certain elements of the project have required and will require unique and specialized construction equipment and expertise in trail building,” he went on.

To offer that particular expertise, Boulder Construction, Fayetteville, Ark., is working on the project.

“Boulder Construction is one of the firms involved in the project, and its president Ron Troutman is one of the most experienced trail builders in northwest Arkansas and has employed a variety of heavy-construction and specialized equipment to build sections of the Greenway project. At times, working in tight places with limited access presents a challenge that can only be resolved with creative solutions. Ron and his team at Boulder Construction Company are masters of the craft,” Fink said.

Boulder Construction, was founded more than 10 years ago and specializes in trails, parks, civil work and various commercial projects. The company bid the first two segments of the federally funded portion of the Greenway, these being Section 7 (Horsebarn Trail), for which it is general contractor, and Section 9 (Promenade Trail), where it is serving as contractor for the general contractor, Arco Excavation and Paving Inc., Tontitown, Ark.

The company also is part of the development/design team for the Clear Creek Trail in the Fayetteville/Johnson communities and has now commenced construction as general and construction manager on the Mud Creek portion of the trail.

“Ron Troutman began conversations regarding the privately funded Clear Creek Trail segment four years ago. The original federal funding was from the TIGER II grant of 2008 and design, easement acquisition, permitting and ground proofing caused construction for the Greenway to begin in May this year,” said Boulder Construction Project Manager Jason Baxter.

With 74 to 100 employees on the job, the company is currently working on three sections of the Greenway and are about to bid another. The Clear Creek Trail will be completed in 2013.

Boulder Construction utilized all terrain cranes to erect the bridges on the projects. They also will be installing horizontal piles along a bluff to suspend portions of the Clear Creek Trail above the creek. Their fleet of equipment for the project also includes Caterpillar excavators, Bomag rollers, John Deere dozers, Volvo and Case backhoes, ram hoes and trenchers and Takeuchi skid steers. Full size excavators have been used to excavate otherwise unreachable extreme hillsides and the ram hoes are necessary to excavate the weathered creek bed granite the trail parallels.

“This project has a high degree of difficulty as it runs alongside our creeks and streams. The terrain is extremely rugged in these areas and the nature of the construction lends itself to daily challenges of dewatering and rock excavation. Boulder has built more than 20 miles of trail within the northwest Arkansas region and our knowledge of the process is extensive due to this experience. In addition, the Greenway project has a very thorough team and, other than field conditions dictating slight deviations from the original design, we have encountered no problems,” Baxter said.

In mentioning Boulder’s thanks to Alta Planning, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, Baxter also extended appreciation to the community “for its cooperation across many cities to bring a world class trail to northwest Arkansas.”

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