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Ask the Times: What's going on with the Arkansas River Trail? 

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Q. Do you know if the city is working on filling in the giant washed-out area below the Cliffs Condominiums on the closed section of the Arkansas River Trail? It's been washed out for a few years now and nothing has been done to repair it. And have there been any new developments to finish the missing section of the trail that is supposed to run behind Dillard's corporate office?

A. Good timing, says Assistant Parks Director Mark Webre, on the trail washout question. Building and Utility Contractors Inc. started work Monday on plans to repair the 100-foot gap created after heavy rains caused the hillside to slump in October 2009.

The company, selected in a bidding process, will fill the gap with 5,500 cubic yards of riprap, which will be benched into the hillside, and repair and landscape the trail surface. The city is using a grant from FEMA of $616,200 and its 12.5 percent match of $77,025 to pay for the work. The design study was $60,000, which the city matched with $7,500. The initial engineering study was $35,000.

That's nearly $800,000, a whole lot for a hole, Webre agreed. The city approached FEMA about undergirding a longer section of the trail, but that didn't fly.

The city remains committed to developing the River Trail behind Dillard's headquarters, property that overlooks the Arkansas River. (Bikers now must use Cantrell Road.) Because Dillard's has not been warm to the idea of having the trail on its property, the city is considering building a trail on the bluffline, a proposition that could cost between $7 million and $12 million. Webre said money for the project "has been identified" and will have to be approved by the city board of directors.

The city would also like to create an off-road portion in Riverdale as well to replace the Riverfront Drive section.

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