Eleven years ago, former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines was determined to build the Big Dam Bridge despite opposition and setbacks. When the Big Dam Bridge was completed, it stood 4,226 feet (1288 m) in length and it became the longest bicycle/pedestrian bridge in North America. The Big Dam Bridge created a getaway to many mountain and road cycling destinations in Central Arkansas. It connects the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, and it allows cyclists, runners and pedestrians to enjoy both sides of the Arkansas River Trail, a 16-mile loop.
It makes me proud to live in a city where bicycles play a big role in so many people’s lives. I often catch myself grinning when I see bicycle traffic on the Arkansas River Trail. I often note parents riding with their children, elderly couples having the time of their lives while riding their bicycles and cyclists like me who enjoy getting a good workout or just riding along the River Trail and soaking in its beauty. It warms my heart when I see people smiling and greeting each other on the Arkansas River Trail, without a care in the world.
Living in Central Arkansas, we are very fortunate to have several nearby mountain bike trails as well the Arkansas River Trail. One of my favorite places to ride is Emerald Park. After a stressful day at work, I often take my mountain bike out for a solo ride to unwind and to meditate. I usually start my ride at Cook’s Landing Park, at the base of the Big Dam Bridge. As soon as I’m on the River Trail, I immediately feel a sense of calmness engulf me. I often see people fishing, some picnicking, dog guardians watching their fur babies playing in the dog park and people playing golf at Burns Park Golf. My ride continues toward Emerald Park, where I usually choose to climb the dirt side. This short, rocky, multi-switchback trail takes me to the top of Emerald Park. The view from the river bluff at the top is simply amazing. My favorite hideout spot overlooks the river and Pinnacle Mountain. The I-430 bridge can also be seen on the horizon. This is the perfect spot to view the sunset, where the colorful sky and peaceful scenery allow me to rejuvenate my mind, my body and my soul. This is my happy place.
After viewing the sunset, I usually continue my ride on the River Trail, enjoying the serene views of the river. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will run into a few wild creatures, like the pelicans on the river, deer, albino skunk and, of course, the geese. I then make my way toward the Junction Bridge to enjoy the display of lights before crossing the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. From the Clinton Presidential Library, there are a few restaurants and stores in the River Market that are open late for a quick bite to eat or drink. After this leisurely ride, I am usually rejuvenated and ready to tackle another workday.