Arkansas makes its mark this week as a world-class destination for cyclists as Bentonville hosts the International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit Nov. 10-12. More than 500 attendees from across the globe are at the event, which is held for the first time in the state.
With five mountain bike trails designated as “Epic Rides” by IMBA, Arkansas is tied with Colorado for second most in the country, behind only California. IMBA also distinguishes the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville and Hot Springs as “Ride Centers” for their world-class facilities and high standards of hospitality. Northwest Arkansas has been designated the first ever Regional Ride Center by IMBA.
At a reception Thursday evening at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced several key initiatives that will continue to bolster mountain biking and road cycling tourism in the state. Both are growing niche markets that can have a significant economic impact on Arkansas’s economy.
According to Gov. Hutchinson, that’s why the state is branding itself as the “Cycling Hub of the South.” Promotional outreach with this theme will be conducted by state and local tourism entities.
At the Crystal Bridges event, Gov. Hutchinson unveiled plans for a new Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling “to promote the economic and health benefits of cycling both from a recreation and a transportation standpoint, further enhancing the environment in which cyclists experience Arkansas,” according to the official proclamation. The council will be comprised of 11 members, four of whom will be from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. The council will also have seven at-large members with an interest in cycling and tourism.
In addition, Gov. Hutchinson announced a $309,000 grant from The Walton Family Foundation to IMBA to help provide professional maintenance of the state’s five Epic Rides, which account for almost 200 miles of mountain biking trails. Arkansas is the only state to utilize full-time professional crews along with volunteers for trail maintenance.
In his remarks, Gov. Hutchinson also revealed the winner of the “Write on. Ride off.” student essay writing contest sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Department of Education. High school junior Saidee Holmes of Greenwood received a $1,000 mountain bike package donated by The Walton Family Foundation, along with a trip to the IMBA Summit courtesy of the state’s hospitality industry. The contest was open to all junior and senior high school students in Arkansas, with Holmes’ essay “Shredding Through Arkansas” deemed the best by a panel of professional educators and writers.
Arkansas’s five Epic Trails are: Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Womble, Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, Syllamo and Upper Buffalo.