CN citizen’s dream of creating exercise trails comes true
WILL CHAVEZ Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
07/02/2020 10:30 AM
Cherokee Nation citizens David VanSandt, of Kansas, Oklahoma, and his son Glendon clear a trail of large rocks. The trail is part of system of trails at the Siloam Springs (Arkansas) City Lake that VanSandt advocated to have built for public use. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Siloam Springs (Arkansas) Parks and Recreation Manager Jon Boles, left, and Cherokee Nation citizen David VanSandt clear debris from a creek near a hiking and biking trail located at the Siloam Springs City Lake. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Volunteers help keep trails clear of debris and depend on the public to let them know when a trail needs maintenance. Federico Suarer, left, David VanSandt, Glendon VanSandt, Jon Boles and Jaydon Boles recently worked together to clear debris and large rocks from one trail located at the Siloam Springs (Arkansas) City Lake. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A map is available at the head of the trail system located at Siloam Springs (Arkansas) City Lake to help people navigate and use the trails maintained by the Borderline Ozark Off Road Cyclists group. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. – Nearly 20 years after he started working on his dream, David VanSandt is seeing biking and hiking trails for city residents’ use come true.
VanSandt – who lives in Kansas, Oklahoma, and is from Siloam Springs – said he began working to bring trails near the city’s lake in 2001. He finally made headway in 2014 when he worked with the Ozark Off Road Cyclists group and an International Mountain Bike Association representative to put together a proposal for city leaders.
“The short version is they liked what they saw. They could tell what was going on in northwest Arkansas with growth and how it was affecting the economy,” the Cherokee Nation citizen said. “In 2016, we got funding from the Walton Family Foundation and some money from the city to start building out here. As we started building, the ball just kept rolling. There’s a little bit of everything out here for everybody. We have some mountain bike trails and some soft surface, multi-use trails that can be used by mountain bike cyclists, walkers, joggers and runners.”
Three levels of trails were planned and created.
“We have a green (trail), which is the beginner level, fairly flat, a little bit wider thread plate, and then we have the blue trail, which is more advanced, so it’s more rolling stuff you can either ride over it or you can actually clear the next jump, and then we have a black line…and it’s actually a downhill flow trail,” he said. “It’s about 400 feet of jumps, wall rides, berms and the three drops that drop into the parking lot. It’s a pretty good amount of fun. That’s what’s on the north side of the lake.”
On the south side is a soft-surface trail with the “longest boardwalk over a creek in northwest Arkansas.”
“It’s 505-feet long. It’s a beautiful boardwalk that’s built to span Flint Creek that comes in (to the lake),” VanSandt said. “We’ve (got) two more bridges down through there, and that’s a little place that’s called the ‘Enchanted Forest.’ It’s a great place to go. We’ve had people do wedding photos, do senior photos, a lot people go down there and fish. It’s connector from there to this (north) side.”
OORC members built a 1.5-mile trail and bridges on the trails. OORC also contracted the trail builders who constructed the rest of the trails. To maintain the trails, OORC members keep the trails clear of fallen limbs and trees, monitor trail “wet spots,” handle drainage issues, create and take care of trail reroutes and contract with professionals to remove larger trees.
“You’ll see us every day posting (on Facebook) there’s a tree down and someone will go get it,” VanSandt said. “We do those not necessarily as a whole group. Usually it’s one person that goes out and grabs that. But as far as the workdays go, we’re typically looking at an enhancement to the existing trail. Really it’s just making a sustainable trail and keeping it open for everybody to use.”
Parks and Recreation Manager Jon Boles said he’s seen people visiting and using the trails go from 150 to 200 people a week to 150 to 200 a day because it’s a place where “you can enjoy the outdoors.” He said the trails add more than biking to the community because it allows families to walk them together. Boles added that he weighed more than 400 pounds three years ago, but with the trails system constructed, he took up biking and lost much of that weight.
“This changes people’s lives for sure. He’ll (VanSandt) say it was people like me at the city,” Boles said. “It’s not. Any good salesman stays at it until they say, ‘let’s do it to make him (VanSandt) shut up,’ and I’m glad. I don’t mean that with disrespect. You either jump on the train or get left behind. I hope this is the kick start for a whole lot more.”
Also in 2016, VanSandt and others started an OORC branch called the Borderline OORC, which includes members who live in the area. “If there’s a trail that comes up to the edge (of Arkansas) in Oklahoma that needs some help or needs to organize some volunteers, we’re all about it. That’s exactly what we’re here for,” he said.
Since the trail system was constructed, VanSandt said he’s seen the number of bicycles in the town “dramatically increase.”
“You see a lot more people getting active on these trails,” he said. “We really want to encourage anybody to come out here and use this. If you want to, come out and hike it, walk it. We have some trail runners we have encouraged to come out, and now they have a group run every Sunday morning. What it’s giving them is a place on city-owned land, that’s a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s a got great overlook of the city lake. It encourages you to get outside and use it for a workout, get outside and bring your family and use it as a chance to get out in the woods. Personally, it’s been a great asset to keep us from having to drive so far to ride trails.”
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers.
For many years h ...