What's New in Little Rock's Green Spaces, Little Rock Parks Receive Upgrades and More

What’s New in Little Rock’s Green Spaces, Little Rock Parks Receive Upgrades and More

Fleet Feet Little Rock

It has been almost a year since a series of devastating tornadoes wreaked havoc on central Arkansas, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Curious to know more about the progress of the repair work and any new park developments in the “City in a Park,” I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Leland Couch, the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Director. Couch gave me an in-depth update on the ongoing efforts to restore the damaged areas and enhance the overall park-going experience for locals and visitors alike.

Tornado Damaged Parks

Reservoir Park – Reservoir Park, on Cantrell Road between Reservoir Road and the Leawood neighborhood, sustained extensive damage from the tornado, the disc golf course, the ball field, the bathrooms, the playground, and the trails were destroyed. The pavilion, basketball and tennis courts were also damaged. Due to the near-complete destruction, the property was used as a holding location for storm debris as nearby neighborhoods and business areas were repaired. That along with downed tree removal has left the roads in the park in bad condition which usually causes utility damage.

Looking west from the pavilion at Reservoir Park, this is the area that featured much of the disc golf course.
Looking west from the pavilion at Reservoir Park, this is the area that featured much of the disc golf course.
The view south from the maintenance building at Reservoir Park down toward the ball field.
The view south from the maintenance building at Reservoir Park, down toward the ballfield.

The park has now been cleared of debris and downed trees leaving the park naked with few trees or groundcover and Little Rock Parks and Recreation is ready to begin the slow move forward in restoring the park. According to Couch, the department wants to create a new vision for the park. As a start to creating this vision, Cromwell Architects Engineers has donated plans to the city for Reservoir Park to spark the process. These plans will presented at a public meeting this week.

Reservoir Park Public Meeting - Feb. 29, 2024 - 5-6 pm, Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock, 1818 Reservoir Road.

“Once we finalize our community input and finalize some numbers with FEMA we can move forward with the phase 2 approach to replacing those original assets in the park,” said Couch.

Rock Creek Parkway – This park is located within the median of Chanal Parkway west of Markham and in a wooded area behind Bowman Curve Shopping Center. The main feature is a paved trail system. The city met with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to inspect the damage. According to Couch, the city has recently received a federal conservation grant of approximately $900,000 to clean up and improve the Rock Creek Trail. The plan is to start with the area in the median of Chanal Parkway. This will include downed tree removal and creek embankment repairs. Once this is complete the rest of the trail corridor will be addressed. Finally, with any grant money left, the parks will address other damage in the area. The timeframe is unknown since more assessments will be done as areas are cleared.

Murray Park – This busy park is the last place the tornado hit before moving across the Arkansas River and hitting Burns Park in North Little Rock. The area was heavily damaged both by the tornado and the cleanup. besides the obvious loss of trees, damage was inflicted on the playground, pavilions, bathrooms, and utilities (power, water, sewer, etc.). Being home to the Arkansas River Trail and very popular pavilions and picnic areas, this was a priority for the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department.

“We focused heavy on Murray Park in the beginning we knew that we could achieve a majority of the repairs there quickly, said Couch.”

Murray Park looking south toward the Kingswood Community.
Murray Park looking south toward the Kingswood Community.

Leland Couch told us most repairs are completed including the planting of new trees. The only major repair left is the fitness station along the Arkansas River Trail which should be made right soon. The parks department has moved into a regular maintenance cycle for the park.

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Other Park Updates and Upgrades

Allsopp Park – The Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department has been awarded a $150,000 Recreational Trail Program (RTP) grant for trail building at Allsopp Park. This will be combined with $50,000 in matching to repair current trails and create new trails in North Allsopp Park. Many of the current trails need work and reroutes to make them more usable to local citizens. There are several areas where the trail is overgrown with vegetation, including invasive species. Some sections are poorly designed creating fall lines that encourage erosion and cause unsafe walking and cycling conditions. The low bid on the trails was $250,000 from the only bidder. Work on the trail is being awarded to Affordable Trail Solutions, currently working on new trails and trail maintenance at Boyle Park in midtown Little Rock.

New trail work will take place only in North Allsopp Park.
New trail work will take place only in North Allsopp Park.

Leland Couch said that the trail work is only happening in the north section of Allsopp Park and all trails will be natural surface and designated as multi-use for hikers, runners, and bicyclists as they are now. A conceptual design created by Rocksolid Trail Contracting will be modified to keep trails away from private property in the area. Improvements in this area are anticipated to help spread park usage from the heavily used southern section of Allsopp Park.

“I want to emphasize that this is not a mountain biking only trail, this is a multipurpose trail. It’s not going to have flow and big berms and mountain bike features as much as it’s going to be trying to leave the infrastructure that is in Allsopp and improve what we have,” said Couch. “We must have trails that connect and create a better loop. We also understand that people who live along the edge of the park don’t want to have trails in their backyard. We do not intend for this to be adjacent to any private property lines.”

As evident at Boyle Park, Affordable Trail Solutions is tasked with removing invasive plants along the trail corridor as they build. This opens the area up for a healthier woodland area and keeps the trail corridor from closing up quickly.

A public meeting is scheduled for 5:30 – 6:30 pm, March 4, 2024, at Pulaski Heights Baptist Church in the Fellowship Hall behind the church.

Boyle Park – This historic park in midtown Little Rock is undergoing a renaissance. Affordable Trail Solutions (AFS) is currently working to complete new mountain bike trails throughout the park. I spoke with AFS owner Jeff Gannon about the project. He said that the section of short downhills near Pavilion 3 will be completed within a couple of weeks and depending on weather conditions over those weeks, this section may be open later next month. His crew will then move to repair and reroute the North Trail on the east side of Boyle Park Road. The entire project is expected to be complete by this summer.

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New mountain bike trail entrance should be open by next month.
A new mountain bike trail entrance should be open by next month.

The park will also begin installing a new playground to replace the current, outdated playground near Pavilion 3. It is also expected that the park will be adding approximately 8 wooden bicycle features that were purchased a few years ago between the new mountain bike trail entrance and the new playground. This construction is being funded through outdoor recreation grants awarded by the Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“The goal in my mind was to have a place where I could take my 7-year-old son and sit at the bottom while he rides the whole area. Even if you are not a bike rider, you want a place where you can take your kids and let them ride while you watch and see them, Boyle Park will be that place,” said Couch.

According to Couch, there are plans to make the paved trails more accessible for those utilizing ADA parking spaces.

Hindman Park – The Little Rock City Board has approved over $100,000 for conceptual plans at this southwest Little Rock Park. McClelland Consulting Engineers will be creating the plan for the 300-acre park. The parks department is working with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) to bring mountain biking facilities to the park. They have also opened a disc golf course and are working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to improve fishing in the area.

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

“I’ve got in the budget professional consultants for the disc golf and the mountain bike trails under the McClelland contract to make sure that the trails and the disc golf blend together within the 300 acres,” said Couch.

Disc golf is a popular activity on parts of the now closed traditional golf course at Hindman Park.
Disc golf is a popular activity on parts of the now-closed traditional golf course at Hindman Park.

Western Hills Park – Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department recently installed a new playground, pavilion, and bathrooms (not yet open) at Western Hills. The golf course was closed several years ago and the park is slated to be a part of the Tri-Creeks Greenway connecting Kanis, Boyle, Western Hills, and Hindman Parks. Funding for improvements was to come from a legacy grant which takes a long time to finalize. In the meantime, the parks department has used its matching funds to build these new features. Once the grant is finalized, which Couch didn’t have a date for yet, the money will be spent on trails going through the park and connecting to these facilities and the Tri-Creek Greenway Trail.

New facilities at Western Hills Park.
New facilities at Western Hills Park.
The view from the pavilion at Western Hills Park.
The view from the pavilion at Western Hills Park.

Other Parks –

The list above is just a scratch on the surface of the work being done in Little Rock’s Parks. The park system just took over management of Rose Creek Park in the Capital View neighborhood including working to complete the Rose Creek Trail connecting to the Arkansas River Trail and the future Southwest Trail. Besides normal maintenance, improvements are happening at Interstate Park. The current timeframe for reopening the Aquatic Center at the Jim Dailey Fitness & Aquatic Center after an extended project to replace the HVAC system in the indoor pool area shows completion this summer. The newly rebuilt basketball courts under the I-630 overpass at Kavanaugh Road at Kanis Park are expected to open soon. Couch said they are working with an RTP grant to repave much of the Arkansas River Trail in Two Rivers Park.

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One Response

  1. This is all GREAT! Very exciting to see all the renovation and additions to the parks and trail systems in Little Rock.
    Are there any plans to finish the Arkansas River Trail on the Little Rock side west of the rail road bridge over the river (behind Dillards) ?

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