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Big Ideas: For Little Rock 

click to enlarge MATT FOX

Reinvent Rock Creek as a floater's paradise
By Mason Ellis

From its beginnings in West Little Rock to its confluence with Fourche Creek, Rock Creek is known by most Little Rockers as an eyesore. It runs through a large portion of Midtown and West Little Rock, and though many of us cross over it or see it at least once a day, it has always been treated as no more than a ditch for runoff drainage. There are, however, a few brave (or maybe crazy) adventurers who have floated Rock Creek from as far upstream as Chenal Parkway.

We should build on their discovery and engineer a world-class whitewater and float park in Rock Creek, with an upper whitewater section during the wet season and a canoe trail in the lower section that's floatable year-round. Re-engineering the channel by removing obstructions, burying utilities and providing better access, while constructing whitewater obstacles, would provide local kayakers and canoers with a unique water trail that could be a model for urban waterways in America and provide a way for curious locals to discover whitewater kayaking. The upper section would begin near Chenal Parkway and end at Boyle Park, where some of the best whitewater opportunities exist. Boyle Park would also provide an ideal hub for access and transition to a slower canoe trail that could be floatable year-round. The lower section, which is currently a large ditch, could be partially filled in to create a terraced section with a deep, narrow channel to provide a consistent depth for floating. Meanwhile, a mid-height section could provide trails for hiking and biking. The water trail would connect to Fourche Creek, which is known to the Audubon Society and a growing number of Little Rockers as a breathtaking wilderness in our own backyard.

Mason Ellis is an intern architect at Witsell Evans Rasco Architects and Planners.  

Reinvigorate Main Street with food trucks
By Angel Galloway

Sure, we only have a few now, but give them a place to park that truck for free and who knows what might spring up? You'd always know where to go and those who work downtown would be happy to walk there.

Angel Galloway is director of communications and marketing at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Reboot the River Rail Trolley
By Nikolai DiPippa

We hosted 110 public programs at the Clinton School of Public Service in 2010, with talks by people from all walks of life, from TV hosts to Cabinet members. Our speakers' first reaction is always, "I was not expecting this." They comment on the green space and the proximity of everything. They appreciate the River Market and our quality hotels and restaurants. But, invariably, they want to know about the trolley and are puzzled to hear that it — and mass transit generally — are underused.

Why not double down on the River Rail System and make it useful for people who actually live in Little Rock and North Little Rock? Make it faster. Add more routes. Connect the line to the airport and neighborhoods in downtown and midtown Little Rock. Tie bus routes to trolley pick-up and drop-off points, and offer discounts to public transit riders transferring from a bus to the trolley.

Nikolai DiPippa is director of Public Programs at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Reroute the Arkansas River
By Jeff Baskin

North Little Rock and Little Rock are sister cities, only minutes away from each other and each with wonderful activities and destinations, but there's far too little commingling. The river is a barrier. Why not reroute it completely around both cities and fill in the old channel with a shared park? The Corps of Engineers is up to the task. Imagine what such a vast green space could do for each city. It could host a constant stream of art, music and film and provide room for massive expansion of the popular Arkansas River Trail (though, of course, a name change would be in order). And lest North Little Rock be forced to lose its submarine, we would build a special pond for it.

Jeff Baskin is executive director of Laman Library.

More Big Ideas for Little Rock

Philanthropists should create a Little Rock Promise college scholarship program for graduates of Little Rock public schools.

More ethnic food. Specifically, a Burmese restaurant serving a rainbow salad full of tea leaves and other mystical stuff; a white tablecloth Lebanese restaurant; a banh mai Vietnamese sandwich shop; an Ethiopian place.

Little Rock’s city directors should be elected by ward.

Trader Joe’s!

A ping-pong themed bar.

Little Rock needs a track and field facility in its park system.

Parking meters that take a credit card. Fayetteville has ’em. Why not Little Rock?

No left turns during peak traffic hours (say 7 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m.) on Little Rock’s busiest roads.

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