By Samantha Jones, Lovely County Citizen
The Eureka Springs Community Center unveiled its new outdoor walking trail in early December, and it’s already become a popular part of the facility.
Activities director Cat Luna said the trail is a quarter-mile long and 6 feet wide with a mostly concrete, level surface. The trail has been in the works for years, Luna said, and the community center started working on it after the SPARK event last year. Luna thanked board members Adam Biossat and Bill Featherstone for their hard work on the project, saying it’s important to have a level surface to walk on in Eureka Springs.
“We worked diligently on making a path that would facilitate walking in Eureka,” Luna said. “As we all know, walking in Eureka can be a risky proposition in itself, especially during pandemic times when you need a little more space to maneuver around. Having a dedicated space that’s level was really important.”
The ultimate goal is to connect the walking trail to other trails in Eureka Springs, Luna said, but right now it only spans the perimeter of the community center.
“It’s relatively level, making it an easy loop for almost everyone,” Luna said. “There’s no place on the trail that’s uneven or unsteady.”
Luna said it cost $36,400 to build the trail, thanking Equity Bank for providing the initial $15,000 matching grant to get the project going. She said Equity Bank later donated $2,000 on top of the matching grant.
“The rest of the funding came from a number of individual donations from Equity Bank, Cornerstone Bank and the Eureka Springs Community Center Foundation,” Luna said. “It’s been a marriage of a lot of different individuals and businesses coming together with various resources and pooling those resources to make something that’s very friendly and inviting for the entire community.”
This is only the first phase of the trail, Luna said. She said the community center plans to add lighting, outdoor exercise equipment, sanitizing stations and trash receptacles along the trail when funds become available to do so. While the community center was “blessed to have some contractors dedicate a portion of their services,” Luna said, the project was still pretty costly.
“For the most part, those contractors have to be paid. In this case, there was concrete that had to be laid,” Luna said. “Concrete had to be cut. Painting needs to happen. It really starts to add up when you think about it.”
She continued, “It’s just like any other project. We always strive to keep the costs as low as we can and work very hard with contractors to stay on the budget, and that’s really what we’ve been doing with all the projects here.”
Luna acknowledged that some citizens want more out of the trail and she said the community center is always working to improve its facilities.
“Funding is limited and we really are mindful of what we can do for the amount of money we can do it for,” Luna said. “Sometimes people are surprised at how expensive these things can be, but if you look at any city government or any public entity, one of the hardest things to do is stay on time and under budget and I think we’ve been very successful with that.”
Seeing the finished trail was a proud moment for the community center, Luna said. She said her favorite thing about the trail is how quickly the community saw its value.
“Sometimes when you start a program, there’s a little bit of a lag when people start to understand that it’s there,” Luna said. “But we immediately had people coming out and using that trail, and that’s a really fulfilling feeling to see people embrace the project we’ve worked hard to deliver.”
With the first phase of the trail complete, Luna said, her mind is already on the future.
“It’s like, ‘Wow, we accomplished this. What’s next?’ ” Luna said. “We’re always thinking about what we can do in the future and how we can accomplish that. I think the community will continue to be pleased with what we’re accomplishing here.”
She added, “Sometimes it takes a little longer than people like, but the commitment to improving our community is inherently part of this center and it’s very important for people to remember that even when it doesn’t look like something’s happening, we’re always moving ahead in our development of the facility and our offerings.”
It seems like everything is starting to come together at the community center, Luna said, and that’s a great feeling.
“We see all the dots connecting and we are meeting as many needs as we can for many groups in the community,” Luna said. “It’s really a challenge, especially on limited funding. I give kudos to the board members who spent so much time thinking about what the possibilities were going to be.”
The community center always accepts monetary donations, Luna said, along with any resources or volunteer time the community has to offer. She said that could mean building benches, picking up trash along the trail or teaching a class.
“There are always ways we can contribute to our community and it’s so important for everyone to realize we need to be invested in the community center,” Luna said. “The vision of the community center is to be here for all people and we all have different needs at different times in our lives. If you find you have the ability to give back in some way, please jump in because we could use that help.”