Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jemison Park Nature Trail - Birmingham, AL

The Jemison Park Nature Trail in Mountain Brook runs along Shades Creek and Watkins Creek about a mile east of the Birmingham Zoo and wonderful Botanical Gardens.  This scenic 2+ mile trail is well-used by joggers, people with dogs, and walkers.  Much of the trail is paved, but the two ends of the trail are unpaved and there are several dirt spurs that go closer to the creek.









View Jemison Trail in a larger map

Audubon Arkansas Nature Center Wildlife Observation Trail

Located on land that was formerly Gillam Park and public housing, the 400+ ac. Audubon Arkansas Nature Center encompasses several different habitat types including bottomland hardwood forest, cypress-lined oxbow, upland white oak/hickory, post oak savannah, and ultra-rare nepheline syenite glades.

My book, Trails of Central Arkansas, contains maps of the older trails around the center, but it doesn't have the newest trails that were recently completed.  These trails loop around through the post oak savannah on the hillside behind the nature center building.  Some of the trails are "Barrier Free", while others are paved but too steep to meet the definition.

The trails have educational signage and great views of downtown Little Rock and the airport runways.  The best way to access them is to park at the Audubon Arkansas Office on Springer Blvd.

Hopefully this trail will soon head west through the unique glades and down to the trails around the oxbow and the rest of the center.

More information can be found at: http://ar.audubon.org/
To learn more about how the nature center property could one day be part of a much larger public greenspace full of trails and floating opportunities, read my post on Fourche Bottoms Park.






View Audubon Arkansas Nature Center in a larger map

Friday, August 15, 2014

Arkansas' Other Trails: Trail of Tears

After covering beer and wine trails, it is time to discuss a much older trail with a tragic history; the Trail of Tears.  The Trail of Tears refers to the routes taken during the forced relocation of Native Americans from some southeastern states to Oklahoma.  Tens of thousands were forced from their homes and many didn't survive the trip west.  As you can see on the map below, several routes passed through Arkansas.

Some sections of the Trail of Tears are preserved as trails today in places like Village Creek State Park and the Trail of Tears park at UALR (which is part of the Coleman Creek Greenway).  The Tsa La Gi trail in Fayetteville follows the approximate route of the trail as well.  The Fort Smith National Historic site was part of the water route and has exhibits and information on the routes.  Visiting any of these locations is a great way to learn some history while you walk, hike, or bike.  The Trail also has lots of potential to be expanded and doing so would benefit the public in multiple ways.       

I'm sure I'm missing some other sections as well, so let me know about it in the comments below.


Tsa La Gi Trail in Fayetteville

Map via http://www.arkansasheritagetrails.com/tears/

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Arkansas' Roads: Dangerous By Design. We Can Do Better.

Bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise in Arkansas and the United States as a whole.  We can and must do better.  Better street design, wider sidewalk, more protected bike lanes or separate trails, and lower speed limits in areas with heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic would help immensely. 

The following information was taken largely from Smart Growth America's Dangerous by Design report.  It has detailed information on pedestrian fatalities nationwide and provides policy recommendations for addressing this horrible problem.  Please read on or visit their pages to learn more about the issue and what you can do to help.

Smart Growth America - Dangerous by Design: Arkansas Report
Smart Growth America - Dangerous by Design: Fatalities Map
League of American Bicyclists Report via Bicycling.com

Here are some key quotes from the report:

"Between 2003 and 2012, 403 people were killed while walking in Arkansas, representing 6.5% of the 6,181 traffic-related fatalities in the state during this period."  (nearly 10% for the Little Rock MSA)
"Arkansas’s overall Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) is 79.98, which places it 14th nationally."
"40.6% of these people were killed on arterial roads, which are eligible to receive federal funding for construction or improvement, with federal design guidance or oversight."
"Over that decade, 73.4% of pedestrian deaths occurred on roadways with a speed limit of 40 mph or higher. 3.3% were on streets with a posted speed limit under 30 mph and just 0.8% of pedestrians died on streets with a speed limit of 20 mph or lower."
Speed limits have a major impact on fatality rates in bike accidents as well and Americans are 3-5 times more likely to die while biking than their Western European counterparts.  This is largely due to speed limits on roads that bikes share with cars and with the lack of protected/separate bike lanes in the United States.
Here are screenshots of the fatalities map for Northwest Arkansas and Central Arkansas:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Arkansas' Other Trails: Altus Wine Trail

In a fitting follow-up to my piece on the Ale Trail, I will cover Arkansas' wine trail.  Depending who you ask, the wine trail just includes 4 wineries around Altus or pretty much any winery in the state.  I tend to disagree with the growing trend of just connecting every business in a certain category in Arkansas and calling it a trail (a 600 mile Cheese Dip Trail, really?), so I will focus on the Altus route.

The Altus Wine Trail is about 4.3 miles one-way and would be a somewhat hilly bike ride.  If Altus or the wineries got serious about promoting this trail, it looks like you could make it a more scenic walk/mountain bike by connecting Chateau Aux Arc to the dirt road just to the west that loops down to Wiederkehr (see map below). From there it is just about a mile and a half to Post and nearby Mount Bethel. You might even be able to find an alternate route down the hill to avoid 186, but I have no idea what the property boundaries look like there.

I'm not a wine expert, so if you have strong feelings about any of the wineries below let me know in the comments!

Chateau Aux Arc - This is one of the newer wineries and in my opinion it has the best landscaping and
nicest grounds.  If you are a fan of having picnics at wineries, this would be my choice.  I've only been twice and the first time they didn't have many wines to choose from, saying the grapes struggled the previous year.  On our more recent visit, they had a good selection and I liked the fact that most of their wines use grapes grown on site and I believe all their wines use grapes grown in Arkansas.  They also do a lot with American/native grapes and have strong sustainability goals.  Their Dragonfly Red was my favorite.

Wiederkehr - Opened in 1880, Wiederkehr basically pioneered the wine industry in Arkansas. The distinct architecture makes this a great place to visit and there is a restaurant on site.  I like their muscadine red wine (classy right?) and am a sucker for native grapes.  My only complaint about this place is that parts of it are in need of updating or renovation.

Post Winery - Post Winery has a nice tasting room and their tour is interesting since St. John boxed wine is produced here as well. I am not a white wine person, so I could be way off on this, but I think they have the best selection of white wines along the Altus Wine Trail.

Mt. Bethel - I think I've been, but I don't remember anything useful.  I'll be sure to add more after I visit again.  I think they have a wide selection of fruit wines.

For a complete list of wineries in the state, visit http://arkansasgrown.org/ or http://www.arkansas.com/




View Altus Wine Trail in a larger map

Links:
http://www.wiederkehrwines.com/
http://www.mountbethel.com/
http://www.chateauauxarc.com/
http://www.postfamilie.com/
http://americaswinetrails.com/wineries-on-trail-overview/?t_id=275
http://www.arkansas.com/places-to-go/trips-trails/detail.aspx?id=faf6c758-33ea-4963-9042-43aca4cd4d0b