Arkansas has been awarded a $20.5 million federal grant to construct the final 13.4-mile section of the Delta Heritage Trail in east Arkansas.
The award is higher than the $13.8 million request the state filed in July, and it triggers a matching $20 million pledge from the Walton Family Foundation. The foundation's gift will be the biggest ever for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
The grant for the 84.5-mile biking-hiking trail was awarded after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain the funds in 2020. It was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Discretionary Grant Program.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news release that the trail's completion will enhance tourism in southeast Arkansas.
“This grant will achieve a goal 30 years in the making," he said. "The completion of the Delta Heritage Trail will provide bikers and hikers yet another beautiful view of the Natural State and will highlight the beauty of the Delta."
The Walton Foundation's grant is tied to completing the project by 2025. It's a key source to help pay for the most expensive parts of the project, which involves modifying railroad bridges for cyclists and pedestrians.
In addition, a 400-foot trestle spanning Hole in the Wall Lake north of the White River will be retrofitted to accommodate bicycle and foot traffic.
More: Arkansas Business Senior Editor George Waldon detailed plans for the project in a story last month. Read it here.
Members of the state's congressional delegation advocated for the grant in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
“This investment in southeast Arkansas will connect communities, provide recreational opportunities, spark tourism and build economic momentum in the area," U.S. Sen. John Boozman said in the release. "Thanks to the decades of dedication by local and state leaders, we were able to demonstrate the importance of this project that will greatly benefit communities in southeast Arkansas."