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Enjoy the great outdoors on Arkansas Trails Day | Environment

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Enjoy the great outdoors on Arkansas Trails Day
Enjoy the great outdoors on Arkansas Trails Day

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The 22nd anniversary of National Trails Day, America's largest trail celebration, is slated for June 7. Events throughout the U.S. will join this nationwide observation of America's wealth of trail types and experiences while encouraging the public to enjoy a trail. According to State Trails Coordinator Mike Sprague, "The kick off to Arkansas's celebrations will begin a week earlier on Saturday, May 31, with trail events of all kinds in Little Rock and North Little Rock. A schedule of the events slated for May 31 in the metro area is posted on the Arkansas Trails Council website at: http://www.arkansastrailscouncil.com/.

Sprague said, "The Arkansas Trails Council provides a unifying voice for members of the trails' community within Arkansas. Each year, members of the Council are joined by other trail enthusiasts from around the state to celebrate Arkansas Trails Day." He continued, "Diverse trail types like hiking, bicycling, equestrian, river, and off highway vehicle trails represent just a few of the many varieties available in Arkansas. There are even trails on the water to enjoy here in our state." Sprague emphasized, "Arkansas's trails provide many benefits and experiences including recreation, health and fitness, wildlife observation, alternate transportation, and tourism."

He noted that in the Little Rock/North Little Rock metro area on May 31, hikers will be offered opportunities including an eight-mile hike in Burns Park and a three-mile hike over the Big Dam Bridge that spans the Arkansas River.

According to Kelly Phillips with the Junior League of North Little Rock, "The Junior League of North Little Rock will be sponsoring the inaugural 'Run Between the Lines' 5K run at 8 a.m. to cap the first year of our early literacy initiative project." She said, "The Central Arkansas community is invited to attend and run or walk the course which will be a sanctioned event and utilize the paved trails of Burns Park. All the proceeds from the race will go to fund projects in the Central Arkansas community for women and children." She emphasized, "The primary focus is on our Early Literacy program, Between the Lines, but we also have healthy eating programs, school supply drives, the Salvation Army Angel Tree, and support the activities of many other charitable organizations in the area with manpower." Phillips continued, "We will also have a booth in the common area from 10 a.m. to noon to hand out information on our projects and membership, and to assist in directing people to other events going on in the park. There will be some activity bags for kids to take home. By joining with the Arkansas Trails Day, we can promote a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the beautiful scenery available at Burns Park."

Activities on the water will include two paddling trips—one of the Arkansas River and the other on White Oak Bayou, according to Kirsten Bartlow, Watchable Wildlife coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Arkansas River trip begins at 8 a.m., and the White Oak Bayou trip starts at 9 a.m. For the Arkansas River Trip, participants will meet at River Mountain Park in Little Rock and drop off their boats and gear there, and then drive over to Burns Park in North Little Rock and shuttle back to the boats. Bartlow said, "We'll be offering paddling experiences for beginners to advanced boaters. If weather and water cooperates, experienced paddlers can join us for the unique opportunity of putting in at Riverfront Park and paddling down the river to lock through at Murray Lock and Dam. We will then paddle across the river to Burns Park and join other trail enthusiasts to celebrate all Arkansas has to offer." She noted, "Beginner to advanced paddlers can join us at White Oak Bayou in Burns Park to explore this waterway that runs through the park. Canoes will be provided." Both of these floats will be followed by an afternoon float on the Little Maumelle River. She continued, "An afternoon paddle beginning at 2 p.m. is planned on the Little Maumelle River, one of the newest waterways to join the Arkansas Water Trail system. We will put at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park picnic area and paddle about four miles downstream to a private launch off Pinnacle Valley Road. Participants will enjoy meandering through beautiful cypress trees watching and listening to the many types of wildlife that call the river home."

There will be an equestrian trail ride for horse owners beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Equestrian Trailhead at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

The Central Arkansas Trail Alliance (CATA) will have a mountain bike ride that will cater to riders of any skill level beginning at 10 a.m. from the Burns Park BMX Area, according to Matt Goddard of CATA.

Michael Sprague noted that there will be a Hikers Headquarters tent at the Burns Park BMX Area where participants can learn about hiking in Arkansas and hiking clubs in the area. "Participants can enjoy a day of outdoor recreation, fun, and fresh air; they can learn about trails in Arkansas and trail user groups; and they can mingle with other trail user groups, including hikers, bikers, equestrians, and water trail enthusiasts," said Sprague. "Participants can also learn about opportunities to get involved with trails. There will also be a variety of booths at the event locales concerning everything from bicycle maintenance to trail etiquette between different user groups."

Charlie Hart, director of the Marilyn Fulper Memorial Fund, said, "The RevRock Cycling Club will be set up along the River Trail in Burn's Park giving out free helmets to cyclists. The helmets were purchased using money from the Marilyn Fulper Memorial Fund, which supports bicycle safety and education."

A "Convergence" of trail users, speakers, and the annual trail awards' ceremony is scheduled for noon at the Victory Lake Parking Area at Burns Park in North Little Rock. The keynote speaker will be Bryan Day, executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority. North Little Rock Alderman Beth White will give remarks on behalf of North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith.

According to Bert Turner with the Arkansas Master Naturalists, "Arkansas is a popular destination for people from all around the country wanting to hike, bike, paddle, ride horses or off-highway vehicles, or just enjoy the great outdoors. Arkansas Trails Day is a fun time to get all the user groups in one place to celebrate the awesome trails we are lucky enough to have locally—and Burns Park is the perfect venue for that. There will be pure fun and camaraderie, so come on out and enjoy yourself on a trail of your choice."

Jim Gifford with the Friends of the Ouachita Trail and Ouachita Mountain Hikers said, "This event is unique in that it represents a coalition for different trail user groups. It illustrates the wide range of people who benefit from trails and demonstrates that those groups can work together to show trail support. Participants can engage in an event with which they are familiar, or try a new event." He continued, "Trails provide many different benefits, but the overriding similarity is getting people outdoors. Trails are good for health and exercise, to enjoy scenic beauty, to experience wildlife and local fauna and flora, and even to learn history." Gifford emphasized, "Arkansas has a vast trail system. We should be proud of the trails we have. This system, however, requires political support and an army of volunteer laborers to maintain. This event is one way to show support and find out how you can get involved."

State parks around Arkansas will also join the Arkansas Trails Day celebration with guided hikes on May 31 and June 7, according to Joan Ellison, public information officer for Arkansas State Parks. A list of these trail activities to be led by park interpreters can be found online in the Arkansas State Parks calendar of events at:http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/events/

The Arkansas Trails Council (ATC) provides a unifying voice for the trails community across Arkansas. It brings together people and resources with an interest in the development, expansion, use, and maintenance of trails in Arkansas. It provides a public forum for members of the trails community and serves as an organized voice for trails advocacy within the state. The ATC promotes trails awareness, trail usage, and trail education within the population in general, and it serves as a proactive advocate for development and use of trails in Arkansas. It is concerned with trails regardless of user group (i.e., foot trails, bicycle trails, equestrian trails, water trails, off road vehicle trails, or multi-purpose trails) or primary purpose (i.e., recreation, health /exercise, watchable wildlife, history). For additional information, visit the ATC website at:http://www.arkansastrailscouncil.com/.