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QUESTIONS and ANSWERS from webinar on building a regional greenway system

American Trails presented "How to Plan, Design, Fund, Get Right of Way, and Build a Regional Greenway System in 1,500 Days" November 5, 2015 as a part of the American Trails "Advancing Trails Webinar Series."

Presented by Bob Searns, Jeff Olson, Chuck Flink, and Matt Mihalevich


Q. SUSAN ASKS: Are we seeing this as a broader trend regarding the role that partnerships play with trails?

Yes, Many communities from Bentonville to Memphis to Denver are engaging public private partnerships especially with dwindling fiscal resources.


Q. AARON ASKS: Who holds the easements that were acquired for this project?

They can be held by the local agencies and/or a non profit such as a land trust or greenway NGO.


Q. MELINDA ASKS: What was it like to deal with so many property owners during the negotiation process?

This is one of the biggest challenges but with persistence, patience, courtesy, a willingness to negotiate and one to one communication the project can prevail.


Q. AVA ASKS: What was the most challenging aspect of getting the project constructed?

Typically securing the rights of ways and the various compliance approvals. And, of course raising money.


Q. LOU ASKS: How does this approach to developing the Razorback Greenway apply to other projects – since you have the Walton family assisting with financial support?

There are opportunities for public private partnerships everywhere and this example can be cited to help motivate others in other communities.

Q. BARBARA ASKS: What are your recommendations for sources of funds to support pre planning/pre development and what are your recommendations to establish a case statement for leveraging approval of one grant?

It's important for local agencies to put up some seed money to get planning going. It can be simple lower cost concept planning to start. The vision statement concept from this process can by used to pursue grants.


Q. HAGEN ASKS: Was or is "bicycle tourism" currently an initiative from gateway communities of the greenway? Further, and if so, does the wayfinding system along the greenway support bicycle tourism by pointing out amenities in the communities?

Yes, especially in Bentonville which also has a world class single track course that is connect to the greenway. It's a good idea to add amenities info to wayfinding!


Q. ANDREA ASKS: Did you contract out the communications piece?

Consultants helped with creating communications pieces.


Q. JAMIE ASKS: What was the most significant step the City of Fayetteville took to initiate the expansive trail system?  Is this something other Cities could use as an example? 

Putting together an in house team to expedite building the trail. This would be an enabling model for other communities by its example.


Q. FRED ASKS: What was the specific federal requirement that governs real estate acquisition?

The federal grant program lays out  specific and stringent requirements for row acquisition particularly in association with negotiations and determining compensation. The specifics are likely available from your local MPO or your State Transportation agency.


Q. JIM ASKS: What kind of counters did you use?

EcoCounter is the brand name.


Q. HELEN ASKS: What recommendations would you give for success with working with railroads to obtain access for trails?

Working carefully to address their liability concerns with good design and understanding their design criteria. Persistence and patience! Citing examples of other successes. Always ask at least seven (7) times.


Q. CHRISTOPHER ASKS: Did portions of the trail use other Federal funds (other than TIGER) such as Recreational Trails Program, Transportation Enhancements, or Transportation Alternatives Program? If so, how much?

Yes. We secured Transportation Enhancements grants of approximately $300,000. We secured at TAPP grant of $400,000. We secured an EPA 319 Grant of $500,000. We also secured an additional foundation grant of $360,000.

Q. HAGEN ASKS: Was the greenway planned out to connect to gateway bicycle systems to support utilitarian or commuter use?

Yes. It currently serves as a commuter trail.

Q. HAGEN ASKS: It looks like this RWT section is an excursion train. Or are there freight trains that use this RWT section as well?

This section is excursion use only.


Q. NATHAN ASKS: Do you have any advice for coordinating with utility companies?

Get their criteria and work persistently and patiently with their ROW people. Submit your completed drawings to their review team for response. We moved large transmission power poles along streets, we just had to pay to accomplish this.

Q. IONA ASKS: Constructing the trail with concrete vs asphalt.  Was it a cost savings in the preconstruction cost estimates?

It was not a cost savings. Concrete is more expensive but lasts longer than asphalt. A durable trail was more important.


Q. BEN ASKS: Hi Matt, thanks for your great work! Any idea what percentage of Razorback Greenway users are commuting?

We don’t have that percentage defined at this time.


Q. JONATHAN ASKS: For NEPA clearance, how did you manage to get a Categorical Exclusion instead of an Environmental Assessment?

Depends on the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. In Arkansas, we filed for a CE and it was granted.


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: Did you use eminent domain or working only with "willing sellers" for easements?

We did use eminent domain, but only after reaching a point in negotiations where this was agreed to be both parties as a way of establishing the final negotiated cost of acquisition. However, in the end, none of the ED cases went to court as we successfully negotiated a final price.


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: Did you volunteer to fence easements/ROW?  Or did some landowners require that?

Yes. Fences were installed thorugh a negotiated process and where appropriate.


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: For the core ten bridges - do those come with concrete surfacing? Or do you pour that once the bridge is set?

Concrete is poured after bridge is set.


Q. COREEN ASKS: The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail goes through Fayettville and Springdale. It parallels the Razorback trail for a portion in Springdale. Has there been any interest in following the Razorback trail model for the national historic trail in Fayetteville and Springdale

They are separate trails for now.


Q. MEREDITH ASKS: Was there a process that got the private sector to step up and see their place in funding? We have gotten support in theory, but not on the finanicial side. Is there advice on how to make that leap from supporters to funders?

Set up a non profit and engage well connected board members is one way to go. People give money to people.


Q. JIM ASKS: Who wrote the TIGER grant for the trail?

Alta Planning + Design was the lead author.

Q. KELLY ASKS: Are you studying economic impact of the trail? Was that an important selling point to the communities?

Economic impact was a key motivating factor to help make the area attractive to the best and brightest who live there. Yes, this is being documented. It was also part of our TIGER 2 application. It may take a few years to fully understand all tangible benefits.

Q. CORREN ASKS: Do you have a cost per mile for the razorback trail in urban and suburban areas?

A million dollars per mile give or take depending on complexity of the setting.


Q. BARRY ASKS: Did the project expropriate any lands/row? if so how much (%)?


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: Can you clarify the funding for the Master Planning? It seems like the Tiger grant does not fund planning. Did you have the Master Plans all done before you went for the Tiger grants?

The Planning was funded by the Walton Family Foundation. TIGER funding was used for engineering drawings, ROW acquisition and construction.


Q. MEREDITH ASKS: Did you get public pushback on components such as the cycle track? Loss of parking or the idea of taking away parking? Any recommendations on how to help to change public opinion to support bike infrastructure? Or to get more than the nay sayers to be vocal?

Yes we did. As well as maintenance of cycle track. But, we worked with all concerned parties to answer their questions. Listen and respond to their concerns. Build quality solutions.


Q. HAGEN ASKS: Are there future "trail oriented development" projects along the trail?

Yes, multiple sites with spin off community development including a rejuvenated trail-oriented town square in Springdale. The whole of downtown Springdale is becoming a revitalized trail oriented project.


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: So do the local municipalities carry the liability for trail users?



Q. JENNA ASKS: Were there any unwilling sellers? Condemnation?

Not unwilling. Unhappy about initial cost/payment for easements. Therefore we used eminent domain as a way of achieving agreed upon final values. This is a complex process and its always preferable to arrive at a negotiate solution.


Q. BRANNA ASKS: We noticed an NPS uniform in the group photo from 1996 - was that a Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program supported project - or a different NPS program?

No, it was not an RTCA project - this was the beginning of the Grand Canyon Greenway, an early public-private partnership project that several of us were involved in.


Q. ALAN ASKS: Can you talk about sustanable funding for the NGO coordination function?

It's important to build an operating endowment for the NGO. Sometimes there are capacity building grants out there or you can maybe set aside a percent of grants for an operating fund if the donor says okay.


Q. COREEN ASKS: Were there areas where it was not possible to get the row or space to build a 12 foot trail and if so, what did you do?

Along some of the roadways, we developed a 10 foot trail. This can happen in places. Should always try to meet the AASHTO minimum of 10’ (8’ for short distances).


Q. KATHLEEN ASKS: So do the local municipalities carry the liabiity for trail users?

This is typically how its done.


Q. BARRY ASKS: Can someone expand on that? i.e., no small plans?

A quote from Margaret Mead. Think big and visionary and then complete in doable digestible, usable segments to proved the concept.


Q. In approximately 30 seconds, would you please share the top “key to success” that you learned from the Razorback Greenway project?

Work with great people.



arrow You can purchase the archived version of this webinar via the American Trails Online Store


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