Sunrise at the Big Rock Quarry Pump Track

The Big Rock Quarry Pump Track

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Where Did the Quarry Come From?

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Europeans first documented a large bluff on the north side of the Arkansas River just a couple of miles upstream from La Petit Rouche (The Little Rock) in April of 1722 by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe. In his journals, he referred to it as “Le Rocher Français” (“French Rock”). By 1847, a quarry operation was underway on the southside (along the river) which lasted for close to 100 years with over 20,000,000 tons of rock being removed, mainly for railroad ballast by the Big Rock Stone & Material Company.

Over the subsequent years, above the bluffs, there was a hotel and eventually a military base known as Fort Logan H. Roots. A V.A. hospital and a campus of Pulaski Tech now occupy the top. Over the years there has been the threat of private control of the quarry when the city considered allowing an apartment complex to build in the quarry. This was stopped by a combination of the outcry of local citizens and the fact that the property is owned by the city through a grant from the federal government and would have to have more parkland created to “trade”.

This brings us to the development of the property for outdoor recreation. In the 1990s, the Arkansas River Trail was routed through the quarry. This connected Cook’s Landing to downtown North Little Rock. Several years ago a ropes course was proposed by the owners of Loco Ropes in Mountain View but funding never came through and the project was never started.  Next, Progressive Trail Design of Fayetteville, Arkansas was hired to create a plan for a bike park in the quarry. Funding has kept the bike park from materializing. Little else was developed in the quarry until last year.

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One of the best locations for a pump track you'll see.
One of the best locations for a pump track you’ll see.

The Idea of a Pump Track

David Larson, owner of Angry Dave’s Bicycles on JFK, approached the North Little Rock Parks board several years ago to discuss the exclusion of bikes at the Emerald Park Skatepark. We had several meetings with all parties involved and came to an agreement for use. While in these meetings, the skaters asked why cyclists didn’t have their own park. The possibility of building one in the old Freeride Park area near the golf course in Burns Park, since it wasn’t part of the original Progressive Trail Design, trail plan, in the Quarry. Terry Hartwick, the NLR parks director at the time, said that plan was moving too slowly and suggested starting the bike park project by building the pump track in the quarry and expanding and creating future trails from there.

“We explained to the board that Little Rock is the capital city and Burns Park is the third largest city park in the country, but there was no pump track in central Arkansas while northwest Arkansas has six or seven.” – David Larson.

Big Rock Quarry Pump Track
Big Rock Quarry Pump Track

Local park proponents, Scott Gann and Andy Thomas were at all the meetings with the Parks Board to get the pump track on the budget and get it to City Council. “We explained to the board that Little Rock is the capital city and Burns Park is the third largest city park in the country, but there was no pump track in central Arkansas while northwest Arkansas has six or seven. There were a lot of discussions on what type of track surface to use, with asphalt being the most desirable for durability and lack of maintenance. It is also the most expensive, but after realizing how much rain we get in Central Arkansas, I was able to convince them it would be less expensive down the road for upkeep and keeping it open,” said Larson.

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Opening Sign

The Finishing Touch

Terry Hartwick became Mayor in early 2021 and immediately made Steve Shields (former UALR basketball coach) the new Parks Superintendent. Mayor Hartwick’s first assignment for Shields was to send him to northwest Arkansas and actually watch and observe the activity up there. Shields was impressed by the number of riders, family, and friends that were there and started having conversations with them about how often and how far they came to ride bikes. The evidence was amazing. After his fact-finding trip, Steve Shields reached out to David Larson to introduce himself and talk at length about the pump track and the whole Park. The city buy-in for the project was complete.

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David Larson, Terry Hartwick, and Steve Shield
David Larson, Terry Hartwick, and Steve Shield

Funding came from the American Rescue Plan for $450,000 for the construction of the pump track. VeloSolutions, a Swiss company specializing in building facilities pump tracks and mountain bike trails, was contracted thru American Ramp Company and on-site work started the first week of November 2021. The Grand Opening took place on January 13th,2022 at 2:00 pm. There were close to 200 people in attendance. Finishing work was completed on February 13th, 2022.

Opening Day
Opening Day

 

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

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