EL DORADO — Exercisers who use the hiking/biking trail on the north side of town will soon be able to add a few more miles to their work-out regimen.
The city of El Dorado has been awarded a $500,000 grant that will be used to extend the 2.25-mile trail, which loops around Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, the Union County Fairgrounds, and El Dorado School District soccer fields.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department announced last week the award recipients of the 2016 Transportation Alternatives Program and the Recreational Trails Program.
El Dorado was one eight cities around the state to receive a $500,000 grant, the maximum amount that was awarded from TAP.
Robert Edmonds, director of public works, said the money will be used for long-discussed plans to expand the existing trail.
After it was completed and opened to the public in 2012, the trail quickly became one of the most popular recreational features in town for walkers, runners and bikers.
In the years since, the city has taken several steps to improve the space and address safety issues for those who use it.
A chain-link fence was erected at the entrances of Lions Club and the fairgrounds to prevent vehicles from driving and parking on the trail.
Pavilions, benches and trash receptacles have also been added to the trail.
The trail was built with the help of an AHTD grant, and now the city will take advantage of another AHTD grant award to proceed with the expansion project and accommodate public demand for the use of the trail.
Edmonds said the extension will more than double the size of the existing trail.
The project will be done in two phases — a larger section that will cover the east side of the trail and a smaller leg that will be added to the north side and extend to the west.
Edmonds said the grant will fund the larger component, while the city is covering the smaller section out of the Street Department budget.
On the east side, the trail will be pulled south to Champagnolle Road, then back east to a utility easement between the tree-line along U.S. 167, and will rejoin the walking trail on the northeast corner.
Edmonds explained that the shorter part of the expansion will link to the northeast section and run along the Ouachita River wastewater pipeline to the El Dorado Water Utilities’ North Wastewater Treatment Plant and tie back into the existing trail alongside the ditch on the west side of the fairgrounds.
He said the longer leg will double the size of the existing trail, while the shorter will add another three-fourths of a mile.
He said city crews are already at work on the smaller leg of the project.
“We’re building it in-house, so we’re working on it as we have the time,” Edmonds said.
With the winter season approaching, he said it’s difficult to set an anticipated completion date for the expansion project.
Work on the longer extension could begin within the next few weeks, Edmonds said.
“The longer section will probably eat up the majority of that grant. Once we get started, it’ll probably be a 120-day project,” he said.
Tia Lyons may be reached at 870-862-6611 or by email at [email protected]