New Paths: Trails under construction on Passion Play grounds
The Great Passion Play has begun the first phase of construction on hiking and biking trails on the Passion Play grounds in Eureka Springs.
Renowned mountain bike and recreational trail builder Tony Boone and his crew started building the first 5-mile loop of what is planned to be more than 18 miles of trails on the almost 700-acre complex of the Great Passion Play.
“We started building hiking and nature trails through the Holy Land Tour area with youth mission trip groups in summer 2016 and it really started to snowball from there,” said Kent Butler, director of marketing for the play. “After hiking the trails with members of the local Carroll County Ozark Off Road Cyclists organization in fall 2016, we saw that hiking was just the beginning and that mountain biking especially was something that people wanted to do. We soon got connected with Brannon Pack, the executive director for Ozark Off Road Cyclists, who really became a catalyst in this project.”
The Ozark Off Road Cyclists non-profit organization has helped build notable trails in Devil’s Den State Park, Hobbs State Park and in Lake Leatherwood Park in Eureka Springs, among many others.
“You can feel the synergy at work with the Passion Play, our organization, the NWA
Trailblazers, and with Tony Boone coming into the picture,” Pack said. “Tony literally helped write the book on building awesome single-track and great riding experiences for the International Mountain Bike Association.”
“When I came into Eureka Springs in 2016, I said that we were going to have a trail system that’ll be the envy of all in the area,” said Eureka Springs parks director Justin Huss. “We have made great strides in making that a reality and this makes it even more so. Our goal of connecting the great trails of Lake Leatherwood to Black Bass to trails in town to now the potential of the Passion Play is really an amazing opportunity.”
“The Christ of the Ozarks has been open free to the public year-round since it was built in 1966,” said Randall Christy, the play’s executive director. “And, we are excited for the rest of the undeveloped property to be open for people to experience as well. There are things for people to do year-round here on the Passion Play grounds already and this just adds quite a bit to that.”
“During these next few weeks my team will be building the five-mile loop which will be for beginners and will provide Eureka Springs and the Passion Play with another great attraction for Mountain bikers,” Boone said. “We have crafted a master plan that features 18 miles of potential trails on the Passion Play’s undeveloped property.”
Boone added that his company has already committed to building trails in other locations during the year, so the first phase of the five-mile trail loop is all that is on the docket to be completed before summer. “It’s a big project and the dip in temperatures made it a pretty slow start. Our plan is to finish this five-mile trail and then come back during the last quarter of 2018 to complete the rest with the hopeful completion date sometime in 2019. People are really going to enjoy using our stacked loop trail system.”
The five-mile trail loop is designed to be friendly to all user groups and skill levels which includes hikers and mountain bikers of all ages.
“When finished, these trails will be a good and easier contrast compared to some of the trails in Eureka Springs” Boone said. “We do, of course, have in the plans some trails for more advanced riders but we specifically wanted the majority of these trails to be accessible to the general public.”
This trail was specifically designed to meet the specifications to host NICA mountain bike association races. Kyla Templeton, the director of the Arkansas NICA high school mountain bike racing league, visited the flag-marked trail this past week and planning is beginning for the first race.
Sources have told the Carroll County News that the project is being supported through a grant from the Walton Foundation although a news release from the Passion Play did not confirm that.