Monticello has a number of cultural and recreational opportunities but there are virtually no opportunities for bike enthusiasts. That will change if the city is approved for an Arkansas Department of Transportation grant to partially fund a 25-mile multi-use trail system surrounding Lake Monticello.

The trail system, which will feature biking trails and other amenities, is the brainchild of Monticello native Jeff Newton, a biker who thought it would be great asset for the community. See a larger image of the proposed Lake Monticello Trails Map.

“My family recently got into biking, mountain biking specifically, which has carried us to many cool places throughout our state. We have traveled many miles to go to these biking destinations,” Newton said. “I always have thought, man, it would be awesome to have something like that here.”

Newton said he has seen what biking destinations have done for the economy and community health of those communities where they are located and thought, “why not bring this to our wonderful town?”

A big plus, he said, is the fact that Monticello already has the property needed to create a trail system. So, he presented his idea the the Monticello Parks & Recreation Committee and the mayor of Monticello. “Everybody was on board,” he said.

The 25.3-mile Lake Monticello multi-use trail system, as it is proposed, will be completed in four phases, a 4.23-mile multi-use trail with a skills course and dirt pumptrack, a 6.9-mile loop, a 6.6-mile loop and a 7.57-mile loop, according to Newton.

“The trail system will be extensive and when complete can offer a full loop around the lake,” Newton said.

“Beginning at the southeast lake access, the north and south loop offers users of all ages and abilities to experience the beautiful landscape along the lake’s shoreline and inland,” he said. “This trail will be 3-5 feet wide, very beginner friendly and have many shore-line access points for alternative fishing and respite areas. The remainder of the trail system will be single track (12 to 18 inches wide) with alternate lines, when possible, to provide more options for rider progression. All trails are multi-use and are designed with best building practices so the Lake Monticello trails will be a legacy project for the community.”

Newton said there are two proposed trailheads, the southeast lake access parking lot and northwest lake access parking lot. “These will include minor landscaping and a basic kiosk,” he said. “There will also be tie-ins to the Arkansas Game & Fish quail habitat lookouts. Many educational opportunities are possible along the trail system.”

He said the skills course and pumptrack are a “really neat feature” for youth. They will be located on the Windy Hills access to the lake and be in full sight of parents and grandparents who can sit and watch their children and grandchildren ride and play. The skills course and pumptrack also help riders who are new to biking work on their skills before taking to the trails where trees and other obstacles are located.

Newton said the city has been involved in the project since the beginning.

The Monticello City Council, in cooperation with the Monticello Parks and Recreation Committee, agreed to use the remaining funds previously set aside for a lake trail to develop a master plan created by Progressive Trail Design of Bentonville.

The city is also applying for a $250,000 Arkansas Department of Transportation grant to help fund the first phase of the project. The grant requires a 20 percent cash match from the city.

“So our goal for phase 1 is to raise $50,000,” Newton said. “We have been getting pledges from this great community totaling around the $30,000 mark already and that number continues to rise daily.”

If funded, and weather permitting, the project could get underway as early as this fall, according to Newton, citing Progressive Trail Design.

Future maintenance of the trails will be minimal, according to Newton.

“This is one of the key steps in selecting a design company that builds the trail right the first time,” Newton said. “A lot goes into planning as far as drainage and armoring these trails so maintenance is kept to a minimum. Now, there will be things we have to address which can be done by the city or our trail advocacy volunteer group. It is also very important to note that these are trails for non-motorized vehicles, no atvs/sxs, and that will be enforced by law enforcement/Arkansas Game and Fish.”

Newton encourages other Monticellonians to support the project.

“A year ago when I was picking up sticks off our old lake trail I never thought I would be sitting in the mayor’s office speaking with a world-renown trail building company,” he said. “It just shows you what a little effort and time can do to make Monticello a better place. I challenge everyone in this community to get behind this project and others we have going on in this great city. Let us truly be ‘The Heartbeat of Southeast Arkansas.'”

Newton set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe as a way for individuals to easily help raise funds for the Arkansas Department of Transportation grant match. You can contribute here or send a check to the city of Monticello, noting Lake Trail on the check.