Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vandalism, poop threaten Big Dam Bridge hours and dog walking privilege

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 6:31 AM

click to enlarge LIMITS: Hours may be curtailed as well as dog walking on the Big Dam Bridge if problems persist.
  • LIMITS: Hours may be curtailed as well as dog walking on the Big Dam Bridge if problems persist.

I learned from a bicycling blog, JBarCycling, that hours on the popular Big Dam Bridge might be curtailed because of vandalism and a dog ban is being contemplated because because of inconsiderate owners.

The blog reported April 3 a note from County Judge Barry Hyde, whose government oversees the hiking/biking bridge over the Arkansas River:

We expect to begin closing the BDB because of vandalism and criminal activity occurring during the night. The closure time will be the same as Burns Park and we will have the BDB open early in the morning for our early risers.

We also anticipate banning dogs on the BDB very soon. The cost of sending a crew out at least 3 times a week to clean up dog poop is not going to continue. It’s a disappointment to do that but the continued disrespect of some dog owners leaves me no choice.

Hyde confirmed the note later, but said it was meant mostly now as a 'shot across the bow" to get attention of people missing the bridge. John Burton, interim director of road and bridge, noted on the hours, however, that the Junction Bridge, a pedestrian/bike link downtown, recently reopened after renovation with 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours after previously being open around the clock.

John Burton, interim director of the county road and bridge department. He said no decisions had been made on either hours or dogs. The late-night vandalism, said Burton, was along the lines of people throwing items, such as heavy rocks, from the bridge. Both the county and Little Rock police operate surveillance cameras there. Burton noted that when the Junction pedestrian/bike bridge reopened recently in downtown Little Rock, it came with new hours, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., which coincides with Riverfront Park hours. That was a change from past 24-hour operation. Gates are now locked each night.

Hyde said vandalism complaints have arisen late at night. "About the time bars close, people head up to the Big Dam Bridge to continue the party and eventually things start getting thrown off the bridge, either at barges or tugs or people working there [at the lock and dam]." He said he's heard complaints from Corps of Engineers employees.

Both the county and Little Rock police have surveillance cameras on the bridge and Hyde said he hoped use of a fiberoptic connection provided by North Little Rock will allow real-time monitoring and some enforcement steps that could discourage such activity. One idea might be to post pictures of people misbehaving to "shame" them into better behavior. If the steps don't work, he said the county might consider overnight closure, perhaps from 11 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. "But maybe if we catch them a few times, they'll get the message this isn't a place to party and hang out any more."

Dogs? The situation is "out of control," Hyde said, both on the Big Dam Bridge and the nearby Two Rivers pedestrian bridge. He said he put out the word about a potential ban in hopes of getting law-abiding park users to hold fellow citizens accountable. He said the problem is far more than a few scofflaws. "I'm now getting complaints from visitors: 'Man that place is nasty.'"

Livestock and exotic animals are banned from the Big Dam Bridge, which passes over Murray Lock and Dam, but dogs have been allowed. Burton said he'd checked the bridge last week and said that it seemed the problem of dog waste wasn't as bad as it's sometimes had been, but he said it was still serious. Burton said he believed the only way to eliminate the problem was to eliminate dog access because some will always flout the rules to clean up after their dogs.

"Hopefully that won't happen," Hyde said. " But the dogs are out of control. We're sending a two-man crew three times a week. I'm not sure I can justify that kind of money to shovel peoples' dog manure."
 

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