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THOMAS SACCENTE  // Times Record

When it comes to outdoor adventure opportunities, Fort Smith residents have much to look forward to including a growing trail system, a new skate park and parks for families and kids throughout the city. 

The growing trail system at Chaffee Crossing is part of the overall master plan to connect the city and other paths as part of a 30+ mile trail.

This project is important for Chaffee Crossing and the city because of the exponential growth there, and that is part of a developing area of the city of Fort Smith. Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Sara Deuster said in January construction for segment one was due to begin in February.

Another project that is in the works in Fort Smith will be located at the riverfront. In November, the Fort Smith board of directors approved the purchase of 312 acres of land from Kansas City Southern Railroad Company for soft-surface trails along the riverfront across from the Riverfront Sports Complex. Soft-surface trails are essentially paths that are cut in the woods and do not have any sort of infrastructure.

“A soft surface trail is just going to be cutting brush out of the way to create anywhere from a four or five foot to 12 foot path through the woods and across boulders, whatever it may be, but you have very minimal construction costs,” said Doug Reinert, director of the Fort Smith Parks and Recreation.

The riverfront land would be purchased jointly with Fort Smith business owner Bill Hanna for about $104,000. Reinert said he believed the soft surface trails are just one more interaction with nature, with the project opening up this property to the public.

“The public in general is always looking for additional recreational opportunities, and Arkansas itself is known for its trail systems, and they are always looking for more opportunities for us to grow that system, and it gives you access to the river,” Reinert said.

Reinert said there are also more opportunities for thrills and adventure because mountain biking and riding a cruiser bike down a paved trail are completely different experiences, with the project adding something else to what already exists.

The Fort Smith Parks Department finished a variety of outdoor-related projects last year. The city wrapped up the third phase of the Greg Smith River Trail by extending the walking trail by 1.5 miles. The addition begins at the end of the Rice Carden Levee Trail, extends past Fort Smith Park, and ends at the railroad tracks along Riverfront Drive. The completion of this phase in October 2018 brought the total length of the Greg Smith River Trail to 6.3 miles.

The Riverfront Drive Skate and Bike Park opened to visitors with a grand opening in October. The park features pump tracks, skate equipment, climbing structures and landscaping along the Arkansas River.

Reinert described this park as a great success.

“It’s heavily used all year-round,” Reinert said. “Since it’s opened, even in the dead of cold, there’s always somebody down there, and there are very few days that I don’t see at least one person down there unless it’s raining really hard, or so on and so forth.”

Reinert said the people who use the new park do very good job at policing the area. This includes picking up trash and not vandalizing the park.

“If there’s bad behavior, I’ve been told that others will step in instead of just necessarily calling the police or calling us, they actually will intercede and ask them to cool it,” Reinert said. “And I appreciate the fact that the citizens and the users actually take ownersip of it.”

Four-legged furry friends can enjoy a new dog park at Fort Smith Park, which opened to dogs and their human friends in July. As part of the renovation, the playground also received upgrades in August. A fishing pavilion and new parking lot had been added earlier in the spring.

The fishing pavilion will provide a place for a variety of the large fishing tournaments the city plans to host.