To be candid, West Fayetteville has been a bit overlooked when it comes to the beautiful trail network throughout our town. Though West Fayetteville represents over 25% of the population of Fayetteville, we have only approximately 7% of the hard surface trails on our side of town.
I run the trails every week, but often that means getting in my car and driving to the Lake Fayetteville Trail. Those living on the west side of town have no connection to the Razorback Greenway for running or biking. I don't know about you, but I would be scared to ride a bike down the bike lanes on Mount Comfort Road; those who do are brave souls indeed.
Using existing resources, it is time to make trail development in West Fayetteville a high priority until we catch up to the rest of the city. If we don't do so, the disparity (percent of population vs. percent of trails) will only grow worse year after year.
Eighty percent (80%) of the land annexation in Fayetteville since the 1990s has been west of the interstate (our side of town). According to Fayetteville's City Plan 2040, our population is expected to be 142,000 (58% increase) by 2040. Given the city's clear mandate on promoting infill and not new annexation, the overwhelming majority of those new residents will be our new west side neighbors in subdivisions yet to be built in the previously annexed land. We cannot and should not waste time in prioritizing new trail construction on the west side to both catch up to the rest of the city and to be ready for the new population growth.
An overwhelming percentage of new population growth in Fayetteville will be on the west side of town. We are sorely missing facilities for good competitive pick-up sports games (i.e. volleyball, basketball, pickle ball, running track). In the meantime, other parks east of the interstate are undergoing significant investment in new facilities.
This is not just about fun; in Arkansas, 32% of adults age 20 and older report no leisure-time physical activity and 36% report inadequate access to locations for physical activity.
Increased outdoor recreational opportunities through reallocation of existing resources to tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts would not only provide more locations to engage in physical activity but also provide people with purposeful activities to encourage active participation. In addition to decreasing unhealthy sedentary behaviors, outdoor recreation itself offers a vast amount of other benefits such as improved mood, self-esteem, attention, and problem-solving-skills.
Through play, children learn about the physical world while developing motor coordination, problem-solving skills, abstract thinking, emotional intelligence, and social skills. Playgrounds serve as environments to promote development through play.
Unfortunately, despite legislation mandating accessibility (such as the ADA), many playgrounds only include minimal accommodations for mobility issues while ignoring other physical and cognitive factors impacting participation; having access to a space does not necessarily mean a child will be able to use the space.
In addition to mobility issues, factors to be considered in the development of inclusive play areas include but are not limited to low vision or blindness, hearing impairment, sensory processing disorders, and autism.