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- Trendsetter Cities - Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail
Trendsetter Cities - Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail
Although some residents were slow to adapt to the idea of the City of Hot Springs starting a greenway trail along Hot Springs Creek in 1996, steady progress over the years and a recent boom in new and unique additions to the area have created an outdoor mecca of historical, recreational and cultural significance. For thousands of years, people have been drawn to the natural hot springs that flow into what is now downtown and Hot Springs National Park. From the historic Transportation Depot, the springs-fed Hot Springs Creek traverses a little over four miles until it reaches Lake Hamilton. Along the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail (HSCGT), people enjoy the natural scenery of the always warm and soothing waters of the creek and the native foliage; the sculptures and other art pieces; and the skateboard park, the playground at Hollywood Park and the dog park. For many years, determination and patience fueled development of the HSCGT. However, just since 2020, what had been steady progress turned to a rapid rise in amenities with the addition of Velocity Park, Majestic Park, Phase I of the Hollywood Healthy Trail and outdoor workout equipment.
[ Click to view the Supplemental Materials PDF submitted for the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail award entry ]
On August 4, 2022, the City broke ground on the sixth section of the HSCGT to extend the 12-foot-wide, ADA-accessible asphalt path another mile to total 3.5 miles. Similar groundbreaking ceremonies had been held every 3 to 5 years as grant funding became available to complete previous trail sections. When this phase is complete in 2023, the HSCGT will be in view of the lake and the final section of the trail. Although this phase of the trail will boast a quiet walk through undeveloped wooded areas away from traffic, it will emerge at TV Hill Road and will be the first time south Hot Springs and Central Avenue residents will have direct access to the HSCGT. “A lot of people are using the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail for exercise and enjoyment, but being able to connect neighborhoods to the trails is an amenity that is also going to certainly enhance their property values,” said Mayor Pat McCabe at the recent trail extension groundbreaking.
Less than a week later on August 10, Mayor McCabe spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of Velocity Park, which is located on the Valley Street Creekwalk section of the HSCGT. Velocity Park will be a three-phase bicycle skills park. The first phase will feature an asphalt pump track and a natural surface skills loop around the perimeter of the property. It will be open to bicycles, skateboards, roller skates/blades and push scooters, and will be wheelchair accessible. Phase II will include an addition to the pump track and natural surface path, as well as landscaping, trees, sod, shade kites and picnic tables. The final phase will boast a children’s bicycle playground with tunnels and ground-level obstacles to ride through.
Whereas the existing HSCGT touches on so many elements of what makes Hot Springs unique – the hot springs themselves, art, nature, outdoor recreation – the addition of Velocity Park shifts gears to tap into the ever-growing popularity of cycling and of Hot Springs’ place among the top destinations for mountain biking enthusiasts. “One thing about cycling is there is a lot of diversification within cycling…Velocity Park will aid in all types of cycling and for all skill levels. It’s a great amenity for our community and it adds to our tourism. This type of track is for everybody, truly everybody,” said Mayor McCabe.
Another big hit for tourism along the HSCGT has been the addition of Majestic Park. Baseball legends Hall of Famer Ted Simmons, Hall of Famer Lee Smith and Al Hrabosky broke ground for the new Majestic Park youth baseball complex August 14, 2020. Majestic Park is part of Hot Springs’ rich history as The Birthplace of Major League Baseball Spring Training. The new youth baseball complex sits on the site where Babe Ruth first attended spring training in 1915 with the Boston Red Sox. Ruth, along with scores of other Baseball Hall of Fame members, spent many years in Hot Springs getting ready for the upcoming major league season. Henry (Hank) Aaron, Jackie Robinson and many other Hall of Famers played and trained at the Majestic Park site. Nowhere else in the country can a young person playing baseball say he or she played on the exact site where the legends of the sport played.
All five of the Majestic Park baseball fields have artificial turf infields and outfields with MUSCO Lighting. The Championship Field also accommodates college, high school and professional play. By the end of 2021, a full schedule of 2022 baseball and softball tournaments was already being booked, each poised to bring countless players and their families to play, stay, dine and enjoy all Hot Springs has to offer. Nine college baseball teams from four states competed in February 2022 to inaugurate tournament play at the new baseball complex. The tournament was named in honor of Mike Dugan, the late Hot Springs baseball historian who spearheaded the creation of Majestic Park.
When the first youth summer league pitch took flight on April 4, 2022, the maximum number of players had signed up to participate – a total of 465 athletes, ages 5 to 15, among five divisions and 44 teams – and there was a waiting list in case there were any openings. A Majestic Park Scholarship Fund had also been created to allow 60 scholarships to be awarded so every child would have the opportunity to have the equipment and wear the uniform to play ball.
Majestic Park is located in the Friendship Trail section of the HSCGT. The following section is the Hollywood Trail, which in 2021 also welcomed a new addition. On June 16, 2021, a new 12-foot-wide, 50-foot-long steel pedestrian and bicycle bridge for the Hollywood Healthy Trail project was lowered into place. It crosses the creek from Hollywood Park and the Rotary
Trailhead over to the Hot Springs Bark Park. The goal of the Hollywood Healthy Trail is to eventually connect residential subdivisions from the pedestrian crossing at Malvern and Hollywood avenues to the HSCGT and Hollywood Park. This phase of that future trail connection extends from Hollywood Park about a half mile to Mote Street.
Another addition near the Hollywood Healthy Trail has proven to be popular among residents seeking healthier lifestyles. In September 2021, the Parks & Trails Department added six pieces of outdoor workout equipment on the HSCGT just across Hollywood Avenue from the Rotary Trailhead. The set includes an elliptical, four-person pendulum, two-person ADA-accessible chest press, four-person leg press, rowing machine and ADA-accessible abdominal press. The equipment was placed on an ADA-accessible concrete slab. In early 2023, the City’s third wheelchair-accessible swing set will be added at Hollywood Park.