BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s Foundation was awarded an $8 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to establish a trails trade school.

According to a press release from NWACC, the school will come with a state-of-the-art lab, and students will be able to gain certification in trail building and maintenance and build on the credentials by earning a bike technician certification and an associate degree in construction technology or general technology.

The release says the school aims to produce a workforce of certified trail technicians for NWA businesses, ensure access to regional bicycle trails, promote responsible environmental practices, and further the outdoor recreation collaboration among area organizations.

Research, curriculum development and renovation of the college’s former physical plant into a trails lab are planned to begin in 2023 and the school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024, according to the release.

“We are excited to offer Northwest Arkansas a unique trails trade program that will be the first of its kind because of how it uniquely builds upon the college’s bicycle technician, construction and general technology programs, offering graduates a range of professional pathways,” said NWACC Dean of Workforce and Economic Development Dr. Megan Bolinder. “The grant and trails trade school will help standardize workforce training in trail skills, allow NWACC to respond to the community’s need for trails of all types – mountain bike, hiking, equestrian, shared use, etc.- and elevate the outdoor recreation economy in Northwest Arkansas.”

The release says the school will include a certificate of proficiency, a technical certificate in trail building and associates of applied science in general technology or construction with an emphasis on trail building, and eventually apprenticeship courses.

According to the release, those who want to pursue further their education can transfer their college credits to Arkansas Tech University for a bachelor of science in organizational leadership online, to John Brown University for a bachelor of science in construction or to the University of Arkansas for a bachelor of arts in outdoor recreation leadership as well a graduate certificate in landscape architecture.

NWACC says it plans to further partner with the University of Arkansas to develop additional trail programming courses in the Fay Jones School of Architecture, the Walton College of Business, and the Outdoor Recreation and Leadership areas, and solidify the pathways through MOUs and 2+2s.

Grant funding will also be used to further renovate NWACC’s former physical plant to house the new trails trade school’s lab space, classroom, heavy equipment and fine tools, according to the release.