State tourism officials announce $20 million grant from Walton Family Foundation

February 10-16, 2020

State tourism officials announce $20 million grant from Walton Family Foundation


Grant will provide matchings funds to complete 85-mile biking, pedestrian trail in Arkansas Delta


By Daily Record Staff 


Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Walton Family Foundation have announced a historic state park development effort in the Arkansas Delta that will allow tourism officials to complete an 84.5-mile biking and pedestrian trail from Lexa to Arkansas City.


Under the historic pact, the Walton Family foundation will gift a $20 million matching grant that will open the door for Arkansas State Parks to complete the construction of the Delta Heritage Trail over the next five years. The State is applying for federal grants to offset the match, creating a $40 million investment in the state’s Delta region.


“This is great news for cyclists and hikers, who have waited more than 20 years for the completion of this rails-to-trails project. The matching grant we announced today, combined with Arkansas Parks and Tourism funds, means that the wait is almost over,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “The $7 million in tourism that the 85-mile trail will attract, along with the 600 jobs it will create, will infuse renewed energy into southeast Arkansas along the trail. Hikers and bikers will see bottomland hardwood forests and views from the levee that we don’t see from our cars. This is a great project for Arkansas.”


There are currently 44.4 completed miles in The Delta Heritage Trail State Park, including a 20.6-mile compacted crush gravel section between Lexa and Elaine, a 14.4-mile shared-use roadway on the Mississippi River levee between Rohwer and Arkansas City, and another 9.4-mile compacted crush gravel section between Rohwer and Watson. 


Portions of this project are former railroad lines that are converted to bike/pedestrian routes. The compacted, crushed rock trail leads visitors through a variety of natural settings. From the shaded canopy of native hardwoods to the vast open skies alongside agricultural fields, guests can enjoy the diverse robust beauty of the Arkansas Delta. 


When completed, the trail 84.5-mile will be one of the longest dedicated pedestrian and bicycle routes in Arkansas.


“The Delta Heritage Trail will connect the region’s expansive natural beauty and create new ways to experience its unique cultural offerings,” said Jim Walton, board member of his family’s namesake private foundation that handed out nearly $600 million in grant awards in fiscal 2018. “This joint effort is a dream nearly 30 years in the making, a bold idea now being realized in a community that, with continued support, can reach its enormous, untapped potential.”


Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst said the original Delta Heritage Trail Master Plan was approved in 1997 and in 2020, but is still not complete,” 


“Because of this generous matching gift, we’ll be able to complete the Delta Heritage Trail in five years providing an enhanced recreational opportunity for residents, bringing more visitors to the area, and increased economic growth to local communities,” said Hurst. “The completed trail will provide users a unique glimpse into the rich history and natural beauty of the Arkansas Delta.”  




This Arkansas railroad bridge will be converted for trail usage as part of the rails-to-trails Arkansas Delta Heritage Trail completion project.  (Source: Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)