Fayetteville officials recently celebrated the completion of phase one of The Ramble, a 50-acre outdoor public space designed to revitalize downtown Fayetteville for both residents and tourists.
Phase one, which includes the Lower Ramble, consisted of converting the Fay Jones Woods into a nature attraction, turning the parking lot west of the Walton Arts Center into an outdoor civic space and making improvements to West Avenue and the Razorback Greenway.
The Ramble was previously known as Fayetteville’s Cultural Arts Corridor project. Its purpose is to create connectivity between all of the cultural anchors in the city — everything from the Walton Arts Center, TheatreSquared and the Fayetteville Public Library to the new UA School of Art campus, said Joanna Bell, the city’s arts and culture director.
City officials have been working on the Cultural Arts Corridor since 2017. It was funded by a bond project in 2019 that was voted on by the citizens of Fayetteville, Bell said.
The area had previously been choked by invasive species, and the city’s Environmental Action Committee started to remove those invasive species years ago, preparing the space for reclamation, Bell said.
“We revitalized Tanglewood Creek,” Bell said. “We also created the Tanglewood lawn out of what used to be the Gregg Avenue field. We were able to go through the Fay Jones Woods and create a healthier forest canopy and multiple paths through that space.”
One of the objectives of The Ramble is to improve connectivity throughout the city. The project provides an east-west pathway to get from Gregg Avenue or the UofA to West Avenue and the library, Bell said.
The project will enhance civic space, help increase development and density downtown, provide bike trails and connections, and improve streets and walkability, according to the city website.
“It had some impressive effects on how we could connect all of the parts of downtown,” Bell said. “The second phase of The Ramble will improve that connectivity all the way up to Dickson Street.”
The project also provides a blank canvas for arts activation throughout the city, acting as an artistic home that sits between the city’s cultural institutions, Bell said.
“We have all of these amazing cultural arts institutions that are functioning as the anchors in this corridor,” Bell said. “The Ramble is sort of an opportunity for these artists to play and work and activate that space for the enjoyment of the citizens of Fayetteville.”
At the opening ceremony, more than a dozen musicians from the UA music department were stationed throughout The Ramble in different ensembles to play.
Throughout the fall, there will be similar additional programming to activate the space. City officials will bring in artists to create installations, the community will interact with artists and there will be opportunities for artistic engagement throughout the Lower Ramble, Bell said.
The project will bring many community members to the area. It serves as a space to explore nature right in the middle of town, Willow Fitzgibbon, director of library services said.
“The spaces are developed where you can have little community gatherings, and there will be opportunities for spontaneous events to happen down there as well,” Fitzgibbon said.
City officials are working on a lot of different initiatives: partnering with several of the cultural anchor institutions in the region, engaging with individual artists to create opportunities to share their work with the community and hosting several recurring programs, Bell said.
“We’re looking into doing fall Fridays in The Ramble, where we'll be doing happy hour concerts so that people can feel like they are able to take advantage of The Ramble at its most beautiful time of the year,” Bell said.
The library was also encouraged to consider The Ramble as an additional event space for its programs, Fitzgibbon said. Its staff is planning an after-school workshop, nature walks and other activities in the space.
“I love nature, there are so many studies on the health effects of being out in nature,” Fitzgibbon said. “The fact that we're in town and it's easily accessible, and I think they did a beautiful job with the architecture.”