When you first take a glance at the quaint city of Russellville, Arkansas, you will inevitably notice several things that help make Russellville exactly what it is. From the endless farmer’s markets scattered around, and the Tri Peaks Community Market that occurs downtown every Saturday, to the many local businesses, you can tell community is valued in the area. Stroll down Main Street on any given day, in any given weather, and you will more than likely spot runners, joggers and walkers exercising, reflecting the importance of health to locals. Whether you like to disc golf, skateboard, run, bike or swim, there is a way for anyone to stay active. However, it is easy to become consumed enjoying the plethora of outdoor activities offered, that often forgotten is the hard work put in by many, making all of them possible.
In the last few years, both the Old Post Park mountain bike trail and Ouita Coal Company Mountain Bike Trail, better known as Illinois Bayou Park, have undergone major facelifts.
Doug Housely, mechanic at Carr’s Chain Reaction, and one of the driving forces behind bettering local bike trails, lived in Arizona before moving to the River Valley. “Then, I had access to unlimited, quality trails,” said Housely. Because of his experience in Arizona, and a passion for mountain biking that cannot be tracked back to date, he felt compelled to assist with bringing improvements and change.
“I have been mountain biking forever. I drove a car from age 16 until I was 19, and before that I was on a bike. But, by 19-years-old, I had basically given up on cars and did not own a car again until the age of 25,” explained Housely.
“It is an obsession for me, biking is the most efficient transportation ever made by mankind,” said the former owner of Poppa Wheelies.
Around four years ago, Housely, along with friend, Terry Boyd, spearheaded the project of bettering the mountain bike trails at Old Post Park. “Terry was the real leader of remodeling and responsible for a lot of the laying out of the trail. He wanted it to be IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) specific,” said Housely.
At that time, one of the issues being faced was that the trail was interfering with the disc golf course, and overall, the trails were not in great condition. Now completed, it consists of 7.5 miles of mountain bike trail. “There are not a lot of signs, but once you ride it once, you can really get a feel for it. At first, some people did not like the redesign, mostly because they had been riding the old trail for 12 or so years. Now, everyone loves it and it gets nothing but positive feedback,” Housely added. The course was made possible by fundraising and volunteers.
“There is more to building a trail than moving rocks and dirt. Trails are usually part of larger systems that are the result of careful and diligent planning and collaboration. These trail systems must serve the needs of multiple user groups and take environmental and geographical factors into account,” is only a small description found on IMBA’s website regarding standards for trails. Further explained on their site, “Since 1988, IMBA has been bringing out the best in mountain biking by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trail work participation, cooperation among different trail user groups, grassroots advocacy and innovative trail management solutions.”
When asked about the future plans for adding on at Old Post Park, Housely explained that everything is based on “space, and availability is limited.” “We are land locked at Old Post, we cannot add on any more,” Housely said.
The second project he had his hands on, was with the city of Russellville, redoing the trails at Illinois Bayou Park, also known as the “sweet spot.” “For a while it was a motorcycle only trail and as a result, covered in old tailings and shale,” said Housely. Now named Ouita Coal Company Mountain Bike Trail, the nine-mile trail is fit for not only bikers, but also those on foot. On this project, Mack Hollis, director of Russellville Recreation and Parks, Chuck Campbell, teacher at Russellville High School , Jeff Davis, local paramedic and fireman and Housely all worked together in order to bring it to what it is today. Davis was responsible for the emergency exits placed throughout the trail in the event that someone is injured.
The city of Russellville has several safety rules in place at the Ouita Coal Company Mountain Bike Trail. These rules include, but are not limited to, walkers, joggers, bikers and non-motorized vehicles are only permitted, cyclists are encouraged to wear helmets and to ride to their own ability, pets must be on a leash and no unauthorized trail construction is allowed.
Additions to local trails mean additional work and maintenance. “We are trying to start a non-profit group that would help us to be able to work on trails. Old Post Core of Engineers allows us to do some work, but to officially do maintenance, we would need to be part of a group for liability purposes,” Housely explained.
In the meantime, Boyd and Housely do have clean up days and are always in need of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, you must be with their team during scheduled clean up days and are not allowed on your own.
While the improvements are beneficial to mountain bikers, Housely firmly believes there are benefits for all of the community. “With the disc golf course and mountain bike trails, people will be willing to drive to Russellville, bringing out of town people, which is good for the local tax base. When they are here, they will stop for gas, and then they may stop for a meal and possibly even stay overnight. People come from all over, Clarksville, Conway, Hot Springs,” he added.
It is evident with all of the updates and new businesses Russellville has seen in the last few years that it is becoming a more desirable place to visit, and even live. “I am telling you, you better buy a house in Russellville now,” Housely excitedly said.
The benefits do not end with the growth of the local economy, but the “health benefits are endless,” said Housely. “You do not have to race. Really, it is all about getting out there and burning calories. Russellville has taken a big step in adding bike lanes around town. Getting them all more connected will help, too,” Housely added.
Burning some calories may allow you to indulge more this holiday season, but according to Bicycling.com, biking is also “fertilizer for your brain.” When pedaling on a bike, you “force more nerve cells to fire. As these neurons light up, they intensify the creation of proteins like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and a compound called noggin (yes, really), which promote the formation of new brain cells. The result: You double or triple the production of neurons—literally building your brain,” says Bicycling.com.
The good news is that Housely said getting started does not have to be expensive. “You can get a mountain bike for $400. Our bestselling bike (at Carr’s bike shop) is a Hybrid, which is right around $400. It is perfect for riding at Bona Dea. However, all brands offer beginner bikes,” he explained.
If you are interested in donating your time or need some help finding the perfect bike for your needs, contact Housely at Carr’s Chain Reaction bike shop, 479-890-4950 or pop in the shop and take a look around. The bike shop is located at 201 W Parkway Dr in Russellville.