Groundbreaking of the Southeast Trail in Little Rock

Groundbreaking of the Southeast Trail in Little Rock

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The Arkansas River Trail (ART) is the main active transportation and recreation corridor in Central Arkansas. The Southeast Trail is a collaborative project between Pulaski County and the City of Little Rock that will utilize the ART connectivity, provide access to several important destinations, and link it to the airport. This will result in the establishment of active, healthy, sustainable, equitable, and safe transportation and recreation options in East Little Rock. While the Southeast Trail was officially opened in 2016, the trail is currently completely on the road and connects the River Market area to the Terry Lock and Dam Park. This first phase of improvements is expected to be the beginning of taking much of the trail off the road to make it safer for pedestrians and people on bicycles.

This first phase will include constructing a 12 ft. wide shared-use path on and along the levee, connecting the ART to the airport. This path will link several noteworthy sites, including the Clinton Presidential Library, Clinton School of Public Service, Heifer International, Residents of Harbor Town, Rock City Yacht Club, Carver Magnet Elementary School, East Village, East Little Rock Community Center, and Dassault Falcon Jet.

Phase one of the project will go from near the Clinton Presidential Library to East 6th Street at East End Park.
Phase one of the project will go from near the Clinton Presidential Library to East 6th Street at East End Park.

This morning, a groundbreaking was held for the first phase of the Southeast Trail at the intersection of John and 2nd Street to the east of Heifer International and west of the Rock City Yacht Club. Little Rock Director of Public Works led off the speeches.

“We are really excited about this project, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for close to 4 years now, so this first phase getting started is a big milestone for us,” Jon Honeywell. “I’d like to quickly thank some of our partners that have been involved with this, Judge Hyde with Pulaski County has been an integral part of this project, Tab Townsell, the Pulaski County Public Works Director, Leland Couch, our Parks Director has been heavily involved in this project, Dan Beranek of McClelland Consulting Engineers, their company has helped us design this project, Daniel Holland representing MetroPlan, they’ve been a very active partner with us helping get grants and funding to actually build the project, so a very important partner. Larry Alman with the Levee district, we’re partnering with them because most of this trail is going to be built on their levee, it’s going to be an interesting perspective for folks when they get to use this trail system and the views that are going to be available when you go up and down the trail. Gina Gemberling with the Little Rock CVB is here, they have helped us a lot with all these projects as well.”

Little Rock Public Works Director, Jon Honeywell, speaking at the groundbreaking for the Southeast Trail.
Little Rock Public Works Director, Jon Honeywell, speaking at the groundbreaking for the Southeast Trail.

Pulaski County Judge, Barry Hyde spoke next, “In 2016 we officially dedicated the Southeast Trail as an expansion of our wildly popular river trail system with the goal of increasing recreational opportunities and accessibility for pedestrians and commuters, it was however, all on street. This expansion improvement project is an extension of that mission and further demonstrates the importance of investing in our public amenities and demonstrates the importance of investing in our communities, our citizens, and our quality of life. Most importantly, this project shows what can be achieved when we are all working together, and this has been kind of a tall hill to climb.”

Pulaski County Judge, Barry Hyde, speaking before the groundbreaking.
Pulaski County Judge, Barry Hyde, speaking before the groundbreaking.

The Judge went on to thank John Burkhalter, previous ARDOT Commissioner, land developer, and the driving force behind the Rock City Yacht Club project. “The guy was really a critical part of making this happen for two reasons, first is his development which is now largely complete on the river (Rock City Yacht Club), and second, after the dredging he was required to do to put in this new marina, he had about a gazillion yards of dirt that he needed someplace to go and we need about a gazillion yards of dirt to add on to the levee system to allow us to put a trail on top, so John’s been a good partner as well.”

Judge Hyde continued, “Once completed, our improvements to the trail will provide our children with safe routes to the area schools as well as convenient access to the Clinton Library, community parks, the East Little Rock Community Center, and of course the Little Rock Airport. Every worthwhile endeavor begins with a vision, the River Trail, Two Rivers Park, the Big Dam Bridge, and the Southeast Trail began with a vision. Today with this project and those to follow, we carry on that tradition. You’ve heard me say it before but it’s worth repeating, Pulaski County is the perfect blend of urban and rural landscapes, there’s no better way to experience it all than along our trail systems. Our commuter, pedestrian trail system is the crown jewel of the county and it seamlessly links our county on both sides of the river and helps cultivate our strong sense of community. It’s that sense of community that makes Pulaski County so special to outdoor enthusiasts, as well as potential families looking to put down roots, and employers who want to build a successful business.”

According to the Judge, the cost of phase one, including design work, will be approximately $1.3 million and about a million dollars of that is from federal grants. He expects phase one to be completed by the end of the Fall of 2024. Phase two design work, getting from East End Park to the airport terminal is 90% complete and he hopes to have it complete by the end of Fall 2025. Future phases will continue the trail on the levee along the Arkansas River.

The Community Bicyclist

Mayor Scott continued to thank John Burkhalter for the revitalization of the east end of the city. He went on to say, “…we all are making decisions on where we want to live and where we want to age by having more quality of place amenities. So today represents, not only the collaboration of the county, the city, and MetroPlan working together but also showing that we have to have more amenities like this, this off-street recreational trail that connects to the East End and the East End Park is vital.”

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. addressing the attendees of the Southeast Trail Groundbreaking Ceremony.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. addressing the attendees of the Southeast Trail Groundbreaking Ceremony.

The mayor also mentioned the Downtown Little Rock Master Plan, “We know that the East End is critically important to the connection of the Downtown Master Plan. What better way to focus on mobility and the interconnections of trails with cyclists and runners, why, because we are connecting communities together and through that connection comes about not only the quality of place but also economic development, it helps us to understand that we have to build a true community because once we have a recreational trail there becomes more vibrant neighborhoods and more vibrant neighborhoods helps us to ensure that our community continues to be a driving force and we are very excited about that today.”

Dignitaries prepare to break ground on the Southeast Trail.
Dignitaries prepare to break ground on the Southeast Trail.

The current route of the Southeast Trail

Current alignment of the Southeast Trail from the city to Terry Lock and Dam Park.
The current alignment of the Southeast Trail from the city to Terry Lock and Dam Park.

For those looking for more information on this trail and the Southwest Trail, we recommend attending the Bicycle Advocacy of Arkansas General Public Meeting on March 14 to hear Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde speak on these and other area projects.

See also  Culvert Failure on Forest Road 114 in Ouachita National Forest

(Map courtesy of the City of Little Rock. More information on the Southeast Trail can be found on the City of Little Rock website.)

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2 Responses

  1. Hey Bozos. Why are y’all running it through the middle of the airport instead of along the river? Oh. Never mind. It’s Arkansas. Where everything is done wrong.

    1. Hey Grumpy! Well, if you look at the first image showing the path of the trail for Phase One, the current phase, and Phase Two, as it moves around the airport, you might notice that the trail is actually following the Arkansas River Levee. It’s explained in the article.

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