New bridge creates river trail loop 


Do you know how long it takes a city to build one trail?

Longer than you might think. It’s taken nearly 30 years for the concept of a multipurpose urban trail to make its way out of the imaginations of a handful of city leaders and onto the pavement.

The Arkansas River Trail is a work in progress — new features seem to crop up every few months — that has taken a host of philanthropists, organizers, city departments and planners to bring full circle, literally.

The opening of the Big Dam Bridge pedestrian crossing over the Murray Lock and Dam created a 14-mile bike/hike loop. But much more work must be done for the River Trail to be complete.

It will be worth the wait, trail planners say.

When complete, the River Trail will be nearly 25 miles long, not just connecting downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock but providing a route to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and to the Ouachita Wilderness Trail (which is itself around 225 miles long).

“Everything that people thought in the early days [when plans for the trail were being discussed] was that trails belonged only in the woods, that they belonged in nature,” said Terry Eastin, who, a few years ago, pulled together a coalition of some 30 organizations in support of the trail and has served as the project’s chief organizer ever since. But the needs of busy people to live a healthier lifestyle in the city changed that.

Not only does the River Trail offer an alternative for commuters (imagine biking or rollerblading to work instead of suffering through rush-hour traffic), it also makes it more convenient for busy folks to squeeze in an hour or so of exercise every day without having to travel far. Who wouldn’t rather take a riverfront jog than trudge along on a treadmill? According to Eastin, more than she had imagined.

“If you go down to Murray Park around 5 p.m., you just about have to wear blinkers on your backside,” she joked. “That’s how popular it is. It really is an incredible asset for the city … kind of like a ribbon that ties together all these wonderful things.”

The “wonderful things” that Eastin refers to include the restaurants, shops, and park areas along the trail’s route, including a direct connection to the fast-growing corridor at Heifer International and the Clinton Presidential Library. This addition should be completed, said Assistant Parks Director Mark Webre, within the next year; he hopes the Clinton Foundation will make progress on renovating the Rock Island Bridge to provide the easternmost link in the loop.

Several other unfinished portions of the trail are going to be tackled in the coming years, Webre said. “This isn’t the end of our [the city’s] quest to build trails in Central Arkansas.”

A laundry list, so to speak, of the patches of the River Trail that await construction or additions: the stretch between the Riverdale district and the Alltel campus; the east side of Riverfront Drive near Cajun’s Wharf and the Junior Deputy Ballpark; the trail around the Episcopal Collegiate School and through the Union Pacific Railroad property; a link into the “Medical Mile” in Riverfront Park; and access across the Little Maumelle River to Two Rivers Park and Pinnacle State Park.

The path along the Junior Deputy Ballpark is the main project, Webre said. It’s being readied for the Little Rock Marathon in March.

“That will be an important addition for us,” said Gina Pharis, coordinator of the annual event, “because it will take us off of Cantrell Road … so we won’t be backing up traffic there. … It will be a nice change for the runners, too.”

Webre hopes the entire path will eventually have lighting, restroom facilities and drinking fountains.

After the Big Dam Bridge, the nearly completed Medical Mile was the next feature to open. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and contributors’ dinner was held last week.

“The Medical Mile has already become a nationally recognized project because it was the first successful marriage of a health and trail development in an urban setting,” Eastin said. The project took nearly 10 years of study and planning.

The Medical Mile begins in Riverfront Park and includes a “Wellness Walkway” and a path along the park’s sea wall, decorated with three-dimensional art.

Eastin, who worked in partnership with Heart Clinic Arkansas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, St. Vincent Health System and a host of physicians, said the trail, which she called “the nation’s first linear, outdoor health museum,” along with additions like the Big Dam Bridge, means organizers have to get serious about marketing, not only on a local and state level but on a national and international stage as well.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault on Obamacare begins

    Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • Two dead in North Little Rock shooting

    two people were fatally wounded about 9 p.m. Friday in a home in the 1400 block of Division Street, North Little Rock.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • 2nd Amendment meets the 1st in Fayetteville on campus carry

    They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: From 'octoroon' to 'other'

    • Fantastic discussion - For my two cents if you a BIA Certificate of Degree of…

    • on January 21, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation