UALR’s Trail of Tears Park, the first section of a plan to create a greenway from Asher Avenue to War Memorial Park, is on schedule for “substantial completion” by the end of next month, David Millay, vice chancellor of facilities management at UALR, said Tuesday.
The new park, located on the south entry of the campus by Asher Avenue, is a part of the national historic trail. The newly-restored 4.5 acre park marks the area along the Old Southwest Trail where American Indians stopped for water along the creek on their force migration to Indian territories in what is now Oklahoma. The march is known as the Trail of Tears.
Millay told members of the Coleman Creek Greenway Review Group that the area would have interpretive markers and a symbolic landscape design, representing the culture of the people that trekked the grounds long ago. The site also includes a walking and bike trail that will eventually continue north to 32nd Street.
“We never thought it would be able to look like this,” Millay said about the land’s enhancement plans, “but we’re beginning to see it more and more.”
The group, which consisted of public agency, private business, and nonprofit representatives, discussed the progress of the project and their hopes to extend the trail through the city. County Judge Buddy Villines said UALR’s portion is a small part of a bigger picture.
“A university is critical to a growing community,” he said. “You’ve got to have a good university. That’s why we’re involved in the Trail of Tears. But the Coleman Creek trail eventually needs to have a continuation all the way down to the river.”
Villines said that the trail system that starts at UALR could connect the four corners of Pulaski County, encouraging bike and foot commuters and making a difference on city streets.
The natural trail could motivate people to get outdoors and walk, said Bud Laumer of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, serving as a “habitat restoration for the people.”
“If we integrate the north-south spine to an east-west spine at War Memorial Park, we could see an increase in bike communities and connect neighborhoods,” he said.
Representatives from the Fair Park Neighborhood Association and the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association showed their support for the project, encouraging the agencies involved to keep moving forward.
“Act now; make it happen,” said Joe Busby, president of the Fair Park Neighborhood Association. “If it can happen, we’re going to add something to the city that people will say ‘wow’.”