Walton Family Foundation Trail Program Implementation

A Peer + Aspirational Review

The goal of this report is to highlight greenway trail programs, policy, funding, and design trends, as well as best practices. This peer city and aspirational city report summarizes data gathered from eight peer cities and two aspirational cities and compares it against data from the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) region.

Comparing trail costs and program development across multiple jurisdictions and regions is often difficult as it’s not a simple apple-to-apple comparison. This report breaks down trail development across multiple different data sources in order to highlight general trends and commonalities. However, the key findings summarized below were identified through interviews with trail program staff from the peer and aspirational cities.

  • Contractor Availability - While there isn’t a specific data source to accurately compare or identify this factor, several program staff stated that their trail costs are often dictated by the availability of trail construction contractors in their area. For instance, Raleigh NC receives multiple bids for their trail construction projects while Spartanburg SC received one bid for their last trail construction project. In areas where growth rates are high, such as Raleigh and Austin, contractors simply won’t bid on projects under $500,000.
  • In-House Capability - Fayetteville AR has a unique trail program due to the fact that trail construction is primarily handled in-house by the Engineering Department. In-house capability greatly accelerates trail construction and the cost can often be reduced by keeping trail design, construction and maintenance internal. The City of Raleigh also has an in-house trail maintenance crew that allows the City to be very responsive to limb removal and general trail maintenance of their 114 mile trail network.
  • Enhanced Trails - The regions that have been developing trails since the 1990’s are typically designing trails with placemaking elements, such as public art, seating, wayfinding signs, restrooms, and lighting. The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis is an example where they chose to design and install extravagant design elements that increased the trail’s total cost but enhanced the trail users experience.
  • Public Support - While public engagement is often an in-house component of a trail construction project and not detailed in a trail cost estimate, it’s a critical element to ensure the ultimate success of the trail project. Spartanburg has gone to great lengths to communicate the benefits of trails and highlight the city’s return on investment through extensive economic development studies.
  • Private Development - Several cities leverage private investment to construct trail connections or provide right-of-way easements for future trail development. Fayetteville and both aspirational cities, Austin and Minneapolis, have an ordinance that requires developers to set aside land dedicated to parks/trails or pay a fee to the city to develop a park or trail in the future.
  • Bond Funding - Most of Raleigh’s 114 mile trail network can be directly attributed to city bond funding. Raleigh voters approved bonds in 2003, 2007, and 2014. Combined, these bonds equal over $75 million in bond revenues dedicated to the city’s Capital Area Greenway program.

Attached document published October 2017

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