Heritage Trail Partners was born from a project initiated by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) in the early 2000s to develop a bicycle and pedestrian plan for the region that could link the emerging trial systems of the various communities. A decision was made to utilize the historic roads associated with the Butterfield Overland Mail route (1858-1861) in Benton and Washington counties in Northwest Arkansas. This led to a research project conducted by independent historian Kirby Sanders and Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) assistant director John McLarty. As their research progressed, the roads associated with the Trail of Tears (1837-1839), and Civil War activities (1861-1865) were added to the project. This research, aided by numerous area historians and public input, led to the NWARPC’s creation of the NWA Heritage Trail Plan, “a regional network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities connecting Northwest Arkansas citizens and visitors to our rich heritage, our recreational and cultural assets, a healthier lifestyle, and to each other.”
Along with Sanders and McLarty, representatives from city and county governments, convention and visitors bureaus, museums, historic sites, and trail clubs came together to form Heritage Trail Partners, an organization dedicated to the promoting and supporting the design, development, preservation, and advancement of the Heritage Trail. Heritage Trail Partners was granted 501(c)3 status in 2004.
A logo contest sponsored by Heritage Trail Partners in 2004 resulted in a winning entry submitted by architect and developer Collins Haynes of Rogers, Arkansas. The logo is displayed on signage linking the Heritage Trail in Benton, Crawford, and Washington counties.
Over the years, Heritage Trail Partners has sponsored the installation of interpretive panels as well as a variety of public programs, reenactments, and trail rides, all focusing on the rich history found along the Heritage Trail. Read more about our accomplishments.
John McLarty, president; Jackie Crabtree, vice president; Sandy Luetjen, vice president; Marilyn Heifner, treasurer; Susan Young, secretary. Barbara Horn, Lonnie Horn, Kevin Johnston, Dr. Greg Kiser, Scott Mashburn, Rick Parker, John Rago, Bethany Rosenbaum, Alan Thompson, Gloria Young. Advisors to the board: Kevin Eads, John Scott.