By Terrah Baker
“Stop!” screamed 76-year-old Tom Hapgood of Springdale as we entered one of the tunnels on Scull Creek Trail. I squeezed my bike brake as tight as it would go, and turned to see him staring at his mile meter.
It’s Aug. 1 around 8 a.m. and Hapgood just hit his 3,000-mile mark — almost the length of the entire United States east to west. He had to stop for a high five and moment of rest to celebrate.
He wears a bright, orange vest with a small Fayetteville Parks and Recreation logo and a large “Trail Trekkers” written in black on his back. He never knows when he might need to use the small bag of tools he carries around as part of his position. Luckily, he said, he hasn’t had to use many of them, including the First Aid kit.
“I’ve handed out a couple of Band-Aids over the years — nothing too serious,” he said.
He’s part of the Fayetteville Trail Trekkers, a program started in 2006 by Fayetteville Parks and Recreation as a way to extend their reach to those choosing the trails as their highway. While on the trails, wearing their official vest, Hapgood and other Trekkers provide first aid, perform routine bicycle maintenance, give directions and maps of the trail system and at times warn the city about any needed trail maintenance they see.
Hapgood said he responded to the very first call for Trekkers and has ridden four to five days out of every week since, living by the mantra “sometimes more, never less.” Maybe he picked up this motivational self-speech from his 28 years in the Army, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Mainly, he said, he feels riding his bike is a way of helping right the wrongs in the world.
“All the ills in the world could be cured if people would just volunteer — in youth programs or health facilities — wherever,” he said.
Biking has been his passion since 1969, when he was a commuter biker in Massachusetts. His bike is always in the back of his van, which has allowed him to bike all over the country.
“It’s a great way to exercise, see things and it’s an economical way to do it,” he said.
It’s taken him since 2006 to reach his 3,000-mile mark as a Trekker, but he’s logged a total of 4,800 miles on Northwest Arkansas trails. And because people like Hapgood are regularly out on the trails, city officials know they have eyes and ears where they can’t always be.
“It’s an extension of our staff being out there in a volunteer setting. (Trekkers) are passionate about it. They’re constantly using the trails so they’re reporting what’s best for the trails,” Recreation Program Manager Alan Spann explained. “It’s a win-win situation.”
At the end of each Trekker’s ride, they log in an electronic report of what they saw, accomplished, where they rode and for how long.
David Bowman is the volunteer coordinator for the program and said he gets anywhere from five to 10 reports a week, out of the about
12 active Trekkers.
The Trekker program is always looking for volunteers, Bowman explained. And with only a three-hour training class, no fixed schedule, a three- to five-minute end-of-shift report and a flashy orange vest, there could be no better way to help out the community while “moving your bones.”