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Little Rock and North Little Rock: River Trail Represents Commitment To Residents (Quality of Life | Winner 20,000+)

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The Arkansas River Trail, a 14-mile system of hiking, walking and riding trails, spans two cities and connects opposite sides of the river both physically and symbolically.

Ultimately, it will run almost 90 miles and connect 38 parks and six museums with seven communities and 44,000 residents representing 54,000 jobs who live within a half-mile of the trail.

The trail system represents a commitment from Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County leaders to provide area residents not only access to healthy, outdoor recreational activities, but to connect both sides of the river in a more figurative sense.

That effort has been boosted in the last year by the addition of the Two Rivers Park Bridge, the dedication of the Bill Clark Presidential Park Wetlands and the opening of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge which completed the downtown portion of the trail system.

The enhancement of the trail system for both residents and tourists has earned metro Little Rock and North Little Rock a 2012 Arkansas Business City of Distinction award for quality of life.

“Little Rock and central Arkansas have an unbelievable trails system that not only provides a tremendous asset to the quality of life for residents, but is also a wonderful selling point for tourists,” said Gretchen Hall, president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“There are so many individuals and organizations who have worked tirelessly for years to create this incredible trail system, and continue to expand it with recent additions like the Two Rivers Park Bridge, Bill Clark Wetlands and the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge.”

Bernadette Rhodes, Fit 2 Live coordinator for the North Little Rock Mayor’s office, stressed the health benefits and selling points of the River Trail.

Rhodes said the city’s bicycle friendly community had relayed “success stories” of an older gentleman who had walked 2,700 miles a year on the trail and an airline pilot who had lost 100 pounds cycling the route.

The quality of life aspect of the River Trail is also a lure to potential, younger residents concerned as much with location as employment Rhodes said.

“Now, more and more with this upcoming generation, we’re seeing that young people are choosing the place they want to live more than they choose their jobs,” Rhodes said. “Location is more important to them and that just plays right into North Little Rock being that place people want to come to.”

Hall cited a memorandum of understanding — the Arkansas River Trail System Partnership — signed by area leaders earlier this year that would extend the trail system to 88 miles and include the cities of Maumelle and Conway.

The River Trail has been recognized nationally, including its being named the best bike trail in the South by the American Automobile Association’s Southern Traveler magazine in 2011. It currently begins at the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge and traverses both sides of the river until meeting up at the Big Dam Bridge.

From there, the trail sticks to the south side, taking the Two Rivers Park Bridge over the Little Maumelle River on its way to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

Literally, the trail takes walkers, bikers, skaters or strollers from an urban center to near wilderness areas. Eventually, area leaders envision the north portion of the trail taking off on a northwest path to Maumelle and even Conway.

Civic leaders plan on seeing the trail system become an even more integral part of the central Arkansas landscape, and are developing a plan to manage its future growth that includes the following objectives:

  • Expand the original vision of the trail to include all of central Arkansas
  • Create a formal arrangement for managing the expansion, maintenance, operation and marketing of the ART
  • Define the trail’s route and identify connecting trails that could be added
  • Define and adopt a readily identifiable system of signage and trail marking
  • Agree to common maintenance standards along the length of the trail
  • Define minimum trail standards for future expansion
  • Develop an annual ART marketing plan
  • Develop an emergency response plan
  • Develop recommendations for laws and ordinances pertaining to the trail system, processes for cross-jurisdictional enforcement of those laws and coordination of trail volunteers
  • Establish an outdoor education program to promote responsible use of the trail system.
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