Saturday, December 3, 2011

Walker Park Trail

Today I managed to dodge the rain and get in a nice run down to Walker Park.  The Walker Park Trail runs around the perimeter of the park and ranges from a thin concrete sidewalk to a 10ft. wide asphalt trail.  The most scenic part of this trail was in the northeastern part around the Senior Activity Center.  The part of the trail shown in green on the map below, was wooded and had some nice views of the city.  Much of the rest of the trail was not very scenic, but it was pretty flat.  This trail would be really nice if people cleaned up the creek and the city planted (and better protected from deer) some more trees along the trail.

For those really looking to get in some nature, there are some dirt trails through the forest between Block Ave. and College Ave., but they aren't recommended unless you are perfectly comfortable coming across tents in the middle of the woods.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rose Creek Trail

Update 5/11/2014: Paving work has begun. A short stretch between Thayer and Dennison near Capitol Ave. is now paved.

Residents of Capitol View/Stift Station are working with city officials on a trail that would connect the neighborhood to the River Trail.  The proposed Rose Creek Trail would roughly follow Rose Creek and a railroad right-of-way up from Cantrell Rd. to 7th St.  Some supporters envision it continuing along the railroad all the way to Roosevelt Rd., the State Fairgrounds, and even connecting up to a proposed Fourche Bottoms Trail.   In addition to the fairgrounds, this trail would pass by Whitewater Tavern, Little Rock Central High School, and some scenic cemeteries.

Some people have discussed using part or all of this trail as a scenic, yet lengthy work-around to the Dillards/Episcopal RiverTrail problem.

View Rose Creek Trail in a larger map

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lake Sequoyah Bike and Hike

Today I biked out to Lake Sequoyah and hiked the Rookery Trail.  The bike ride out was ok, but not amazing.  The route has rolling hills, but nothing too step.  The main problem with biking to Lake Sequoyah (and Lake Weddington) is that MLK Blvd./Huntsville Rd./Hwy. 16 is a busy road without a dedicated bake lane or better yet a bike path alongside it.  Once I turned onto Lake Sequoyah Dr., the ride became much more enjoyable.
I parked my bike at the marina and went inside to get info on the trails around the lake.  There are at least two trails in the park, the Kingfisher and the Rookery.  The Kingfisher runs along the east side of the lake and begins north of the Marina.
Update 2/2014:  I believe it now goes around much of the north and west sides of the lake.

To get on the Rookery Trail, I crossed the road and walked south to the covered information sign.  This trail was hard to follow at times, but keep an eye out for light blue blazes and pink and orange flagging.  A few words of advice:
1.  A the first big open area, walk straight across the clearing and then look for blue blazes on the other side.
2.  At the second open area, after the second cattle gate, walk slightly to the left past the picnic table to the other side of the clearing to find the trail again.
3.  After the second clearing, the trail enters a wooded area and heads up a hill.  Be on the lookout for a gate in the fence (shown below).  If you miss this, you'll miss some of the most interesting parts of the trail (and you'll be lost).
4.  This later section of this trail follows a VERY long rock wall which I hypothesize to be the long-lost ancient remains of the Great Wall of Arkansas.
5.  This is probably the most interesting trail I've been on in Fayetteville since moving here in August.  It is also probably the most difficult to follow.
6.  Wear good boots, the trail can be muddy and torn up by cattle in places, but the parts past that are worth it.

Lake Sequoyah, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Bike and HikeLake Sequoyah, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Bike and Hike
Lake Sequoyah, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Bike and Hike

View Lake Sequoyah Bike Hike in a larger map

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Biking on Campus

UA is working to improve biking in and around campus, but with the topography, numerous construction sites, and more students every semester biking on campus can be quite intimidating.  The map below shows some routes that make biking around campus a more pleasant experience by avoiding steep hills and high pedestrian traffic areas.  For more details, click items on the map or click the link at the base of the map.

To make it easier for more students to bike (and not drive) the campus should:
1.  Build more bike racks at dorms and other locations where overflow has been witnessed.
2.  Mark designated bike lanes on some paths through campus and on major roads around campus like Maple St., Arkansas Ave., and Garland Ave.
3.  Close more roads through campus to non-essential vehicular traffic, at least during class hours.  Campuses feel more like campuses when there aren't lots of cars driving through them anyways.  If you've ever been on Ozark Ave. near the end of Dickson between classes, you know that cars shouldn't be trying to drive through there.  I think the rest of Garland and Ozark Ave. would be good places to start closing more roads.

For useful sites and more information on biking on campus read this.

Monday, October 31, 2011

River Trail Updates

The River Trail is coming closer and closer to completion.  About a month ago the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge (Rock Island Bridge) was opened to the public, connecting the eastern end of the River Trail with a bridge that doesn't require bikers to compete with cars (Main St.) or take several flights of stairs (Junction Bridge).
Near the recently completed bridge, a nice new boardwalk has opened to take visitors through the William E. Clark Presidential Wetlands.  Visitors to the wetlands can learn about native plants and wildlife, while taking in nice views of the Arkansas River and downtown Little Rock.  Herons, beavers, large turtles, and massive fish can all be seen from the boardwalk.   
I was also very excited to see that Metroplan paid for plans to be drawn up for the final segment of the River Trail connecting Riverdale to Downtown.  This section of the trail currently follows unattractive roads and tiny sidewalks through western downtown Little Rock making it the least safe and least aesthetically pleasing section of the trail.  As someone who is very proud of Little Rock, this stretch of the trail has long been a source of embarrassment and shame for me given that North Little Rock stole our concerts, our baseball games, and now they have the most complete and most beautiful sections of the River Trail.
Sadly, the article about the new plans mentions that the right-of-way has not been finalized and that funding has yet to be located, meaning I may have to be embarrassed for Little Rock for a few more years to come.

Photos and map below the fold.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scull Creek-Mud Creek-Gulley Park Loop

Today I went on a ride with a friend. We wanted something shorter than the ride out to Lake Wedington and we've already been up to Lake Fayetteville, so we decided to explore a bit.  We ended up going up Scull Creek Trail, past Gordon Long Park (that I hope to explore soon), to the Mud Creek Trail, and south on Old Missouri Rd.  From there we took a short detour down the Raven Trail which is pretty short, but passes through a scenic area and by some really nice homes.
From the Raven Trail, we continued south on Old Missouri Rd., took a right on Old Wire, and biked around the Gulley Park Trails.  We then backtracked back a bit to take Rolling Hills Dr. and Appleby Rd. back to the Scull Creek Trail since those roads are much flatter than Township St. or North St.  To make more a loop next time, I might try continuing down Old Wire Rd. to Lafayette.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bikes on Campus at UA Fayetteville

If you bike or would like to bike on campus at the University of Arkansas, make sure you read this carefully.  UA, according to its master plan, wants to be a bike-friendly campus where students have the option to bike, walk, and/or take the bus everywhere they need to go.  If you have been on campus recently, you know they aren't quite there yet and thanks to all the new students and construction, biking on campus might not improve drastically for a few years to come.
There are, however, some things you can do to help improve biking on campus.
1.  Register your bike with the university.  If you don't have a bike, get one and then register it.  If you don't want to buy one, borrow one from the school's Razorbikes program.  Registering your bike or taking advantage of the Razorbikes program will let the university know students are using bikes on campus and that they need places to both park, and ride, those bikes.
2. Let people know what the problems are with biking on campus.  If you are on Facebook, check-out the UARK Bicycle Infrastructure Group.  Leave a message/comment on where more bike racks are needed or where it would be nice to have a bike lane or path.
3.  Volunteer.  In order to make efficient use of limited funds, the university needs good data on bike usage on campus.  If you want to help collect this data, leave a comment on here or any of the other pages linked to in this blog and someone will get in touch with you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crystal Bridges Trail

Bentonville has a nice network of road and mountain biking trails.  Yesterday, Angela and I made our first pilgrimage to the city that Walmart built.  We parked in the square, walked by the original Walmart, sampled popsicles, ate at the delicious and fancy Tusk and Trotter, and then got on our bikes.
We quickly reached Compton Gardens after heading north on A St.  Where the paved trail forks, we took the Art Trail to the right.  This trail is short, but has some interesting sights and another plus for the botanically oriented like myself, the trees and shrubs are labeled.  This trail currently dead-ends at the southern entrance to the museum, so we turned around and backtracked to the Crystal Bridges Trail.  After turning right on the trail, we followed it through the woods for a while, stopping at the construction viewing platform and some of the sculptures along the path.  One slightly shocking thing I noticed, is that there is a dirt path paralleling the paved trail that is not just used by, but is actually intended for mountain bikers.  Pretty cool for a trail named after a museum!
After the museum area, the paved trail passes a wastewater treatment plant and runs along a road.  Where the trail borders the road, it is separated by a concrete barrier.  Way to go Bentonville.  As I made clear in another blog entry, this is the only way to make a bike lane on a road truly safe.
For the next mile or two, the paved trail is surround by tons of mountain biking trails and courses.  We stopped for a break near the northern most marker on the map below to watch lots of mountain bikers whiz around a fun looking course.
From there we followed the trail west then south past a new-looking dog park with a restroom and parking area.  We then followed the Blue Route, which simply followed some roads back to the square.  Had we known that, we might have just taken the trail back.

Rim Rock Nature Trail - Beaver Lake

Last night, Angela and I camped at the Prairie Creek Public Use Area on Beaver Lake, after failing to find a spot Saturday. This morning, we decided to hike the Rim Rock Nature Trail, located in the eastern part of the park, before heading home.  As is the case with many trails in Arkansas at this time of year, it was overgrown in many places and we eventually gave up about halfway through due to fears of ticks and chiggers.  The trail passed along an interesting little bluff (Rim Rock I'm guessing) and provided views of the lake.  There were numbers on a few trees which made me think this trail was initially a self-guided nature trail.  I bet the trail is great in the winter, especially for people looking for some real nature time in a largely over-developed, RV focused, campground.

Devil's Den Trail - Devil's Den State Park

This Saturday, after finding out all the campsites in Northwest Arkansas were full, some friends and I decided to do a short hike at Devil's Den State Park.  We parked at the visitor center and hopped on the Devil's Den Trail, a short 1.5 mi. trail that passes some interesting geological features including caves and deep fissures.  These features also tend to have great names like Devil's Icebox and, of course, Devil's Den.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lake Fayetteville

Today Angela and I took our bikes to Lake Fayetteville for a late afternoon bike ride.  We parked at the Botanical Garden located off Crossover Rd. (see map below).  From there we rode north along the paved trail, following the route on the map.  There are a few small hills along the trail, but nothing too crazy.  This trail is quite scenic and right now the sumac and sassafras are in their fall colors.  The views from the dam and bridge, located at the western end of the trail, are really nice.  The one slight negative of this trail is that you have to share the road with cars for a short while on Lake Fayetteville Rd.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An Unsolicited Plan for a Mullins Creek Greenway

I wrote an earlier piece on how UA needed to take a page out of UALR's book and create a Mullins Creek Greenway, similar to UALR's Coleman Creek Greenway, but I didn't include many specifics.  So here is my plan for Mullins Creek in greater detail:

Overall Objectives:
1.  Provide the campus community a scenic and safe trail that connects housing areas, athletic facilities, classrooms, and shopping areas.
2.  Improve the habitat and water quality of Mullins Creek.
3.  Provide a viable alternative to driving around campus that is healthier, more scenic, and just as fast.

Stage 1: The Cheap Stuff
1.  Establish a "no-mow" zone around the creek.  This would actually be more of a mow twice a year zone that would immediately help decrease erosion along the creek, improve water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.

2.  To avoid looking like an overgrown drainage ditch, attractive native grasses, shrubs and trees could be planted along the banks for little extra cost.  Inland sea oats, soft rush, blackgum, red bud, sycamore, and dogwoods are just a few examples of attractive plants that would improve aesthetics, water quality, and habitat.  Streambank and wetland plants can typically be purchases for ~$1 a plug.  Tree prices vary depending on size, but can be as cheap as $30 for a 6' tall tree.  Smaller sapplings go for 10 cents when bought in bulk.  If done as part of an official mitigation plan, this project might even pay for itself.

Stage 2:  The Not Cheap, but Not Really That Expensive Stuff
1.  Increase the width of existing trails/sidewalks to at least 12 feet.
2.  Move existing sidewalks that are within 10 feet of the creek (red on the map) farther away.  Placing a path too close to the creek can, and has, led to bank erosion, flooded trails, and expensive repairs.
3.  Pave new sections of trail to connect existing sections each other and dorms, apartments, athletic facilities, classrooms, and shopping areas.

Stage 3:  The Expensive Stuff.
1.  Remove the parking lot at MLK and Razorback Rd.  Replace it with a 3-4 story parking deck located away from the creek that has 1/3 the footprint (shown in red and green below).
2.  Convert the old parking area nearest the creek to a Trail of Tears Park with educational signage.
3.  Build  a pedestrian bridge over MLK.  This street is really busy and waiting to cross it can be a pain.
4.  Perform a coordinated, natural channel design, stream restoration of the creek where it is above ground on campus.  This will save money on maintenance in the long-run and improve water quality and habitat on campus and downstream.

Here is a map of the proposed trail. The majority of this is already in place. Existing sections would just need to be improved and short connections would need to be made.

Rock Island Bridge Opens at Clinton Library

The River Trail just got one step closer to being complete. You can now bike over the Rock Island Bridge at the Clinton Library instead of having to carry your bike up/down steps on the junction bridge or vie with traffic on other downtown bridges.

Next (and last?) step, do something about the crappy section between downtown and Riverdale. You can't really call it a trail if you all you have is bike lanes on busy streets.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

UA needs to Copy UALR - Mullins Creek vs. Coleman Creek

Mullins Creek on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville has a lot in common with Coleman Creek which flows through UALR's campus in Little Rock. Both creeks:

1. Flow through campus and were historically treated more as obstacles than amenities.
2. Had buildings built OVER them.
3. Were crossed by the Trail of Tears. (and at what is now the southern end of each campus even!)
4. Face problems associated with rapid urban development of their watersheds. (trash, erosion)
5. Are impacted by Razorback football game tailgating. (War Memorial Park in Little Rock, Razorback Gardens in Fayetteville.)

With all they have in common, their recent history couldn't be more different.

1. Formed the Coleman Creek Greenway Committee with experts in landscape architecture, environmental engineering, ecology, GIS, habitat restoration, trails, etc.
2. Came up with plans to improve the creek's habitat and water quality.
3. Developed plans for a wide, paved, bike and pedestrian trail that will eventually run along both sides of the creek and connect the campus to surrounding neighborhoods and city parks.
4. Tore down multiple buildings and ripped up acres of parking to build Trail of Tears Park, which has educational signage and native plant landscaping along the first section of the trail to be completed.
5. Is working to decrease vehicular traffic through campus and boost bike and pedestrian traffic.

1. Threw some boulders in the creek, which actually sped erosion, and called it a day.
(I don't know if this is completely fair, since I haven't been in Fayetteville for very long. I've read that plans for a restoration are being drawn up but haven't seen any evidence of plans or intent to implement them. UA did remove buildings where Razorback Gardens and the baseball field are, but I think this was done more for sports than the creek.)

UA needs to form a Mullins Creek Greenway Committee with the full backing of the Chancellor. The goals of this committee need to be to:

1. Boost student access to, and appreciation of, Mullins Creek.
2. Improve water quality in Mullins Creek.
3. Improve habitat and the aesthetics of the creek.
4. Find ways to better link the creek and campus to the surrounding community.

Here are some basic ways some of these goals could be accomplished:

1. Conduct a natural stream channel restoration of the sections of the creek that are still above ground. As part of this, plant the banks with native grasses, shrubs, and trees and limit mowing of a 25' buffer along the creek to once or twice a year.
2. Expand and improve the sidewalks along and near the trail. Take the trail to the southern end of campus and connect it to the Tsa La Gi Trail and Hill Place Apartments.
3. Create a Trail of Tears Park at the southern edge of campus that educates people on the history of the Trail of Tears. Make sure this park is connected to the main trail along the creek.
4. In the long run, seek to remove impervious surfaces on campus. Install green roofs, rain gardens, and bioswales. Store rainwater in cisterns and use that for irrigation on campus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lake Wedington Loop #1

Today, my friend Jess and I decided to take advantage of the great weather and go on a bike ride (see map below). Neither of us are avid cyclists, but we like to pretend we are in great shape and can do pretty much anything (yes this attitude has gotten us into some trouble in the past).
After packing swimsuits and a frisbee (neither of which ended up being used), we struck out for Lake Wedington without really doing much research. It turns out the lake is 17 miles west of town and that you if you take the seemingly logical choice of Wedington Dr. to get there, you have some pretty nasty hills in the way. We added an unnecessary hill, by initially deciding to take MLK west and then quickly deciding that road was too nasty and deciding to head north to Wedington Dr.

Wedington Dr. is a large road with little shade for most of the way. In the more developed areas, it does have a sidewalk and in places a nice wide bike path. After about 8 miles, the large relatively flat road begins to curve up and down some hills. A couple of the downhill sections were so great (long and steep) that we decided to find a different way home.

We arrived at the lake around 5:00 having taken a little over 1.5 hrs to get out there. At this point we admitted to ourselves that we were already pretty pooped and probably didn't have the time or energy to swim or throw a frisbee given that sunset is around 7:00 these days. So after exploring the cabins, lodge, swimming area, and campground we headed back towards Fayetteville.

This time, we took a very different route and it ended up being a lot better and also worse in places. The southern section of the loop shown on the map is much flatter, and for most of the way it is more scenic and less busy. All that comes to a nasty, screeching halt when you reach Main St./MLK Blvd. There is a bike lane for a bit in Farmington, and then ironically, around the time you see the "Fayetteville: Bike Friendly City" sign, there is no bike lane and no decent sidewalk. Needless to say, the last five miles on MLK were not fun. If you live in the northern part of Fayetteville, you might change the route a bit and take Double Springs Rd. or Broyles St. north back to Wedington Dr. for the final leg back into town.

Has anyone else done this ride? Any suggestions?
Here is another Lake Wedington Route.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tyler Bend Trails - Things to do When the Buffalo is Too Low

Yesterday, I found myself in Gilbert with "Very Low" amounts of water on the Buffalo.  Even after raining most the day yesterday, the river is still "Very Low" according the the USGS.  So, rather than figure out a shuttle and drag a kayak down a few miles of gravel, I decided to explore some nearby trails.  The Buffalo River Trail, which I believe is now part of the Ozark Highlands Trail, runs past Gilbert, but I'd been on that part of it a few times already so I drove to nearby Tyler Bend, one of the most popular put-ins on the river, which happens to also be home to several medium-length, nice trails.

After parking at the Visitor Center, I got on the River View Trail and followed it 1.3 mi. up to the Collier Homestead.  Along the way, I took in great views of the river and enjoyed the changing vegetation which varied from river cane and ferns to cacti, large white oaks, and beautiful moss-covered cedars.

From the homestead, I followed the Buffalo River Trail to the Spring Hollow Trail and took that downhill back to the visitor center.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arkansas Trail Funding News

There is lots going on this week with trail funding in our state:
1.  From the AP (via the DemGaz) the Highway Commission awarded a total of $1.8 million to 31 different trail projects around the state.  Big winners include Arkansas State Parks and Hendrix College.
2.  Also from the AP (via the DemGaz) as part of the aforementioned $1.8 million, the City of Hot Springs got $40,000 to build a bridge that will connect two existing recreational trails. (see map below, if you are from Hot Springs, let me know if I got this right)
3.  Voters in Little Rock will head to the polls Sept. 13 to vote on two separate sales tax increases.  If passed, at roughly $28 million will go to parks and trails in Little Rock.  Given that Little Rock has the lowest sales tax in the state, this is a tax we can handle.
UPDATE: The two sales taxes passed.
Map below:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tsa La Gi Trail

Update 7/4/14:  The Tsa La Gi (Cherokee in Cherokee I'm told) Trail has been extended and now runs from Razorback Rd. to the Razorback Greenway near MLK and School Ave.  While it isn't the most scenic trail in Northwest Arkansas, it is important since it connects numerous restaurants, large apartment complexes, and businesses to the trail system.  This makes it easier for more people to use the trail not just for recreation, but for transportation.

The Tsa La Gi Trail in its current form is little more than a wide sidewalk for the Hill Place apartment complex.  At a under 0.2 mi. in length, this trail is the shortest mentioned in the Fayetteville Trails Guide brochure.  I think the main reason for its inclusion is to raise awareness of plans for connecting it to the university and Fayetteville High School campuses to the west and the Scull Creek Trail just 0.3 mi. to the east.

View Tsa La Gi Trail in a larger map
Tsa La Gi Trail, Hill Place Apartments, Fayetteville

Gulley Park Trail

Gulley Park is a large city park in northeast Fayetteville located near the intersection of Township Rd. and Old Wire Rd.  The park has large open mowed areas that are great for picnics, playing with your dog, or tossing a frisbee or ball around.  It also has a creek, sand volleyball court, gazebo, picnic tables, a large playground and ~1.5 mi. of fairly flat asphalt trail.  The dark blue outer loop on the map, including the spur to Azalea Terrace, is 1.5 mi.
There isn't much shade along the trail, but lots of young shade trees have been planted recently and should provide some good shade here in 10 years assuming they don't die from lack of water (which some of them looked close to doing).
The best views of Niokaska Creek are along the light blue trail on the map.  This creek has had some problems with bank erosion in the past, and has benefited from restoration work.  The creek was bone dry when I visited today (early September).
The plan for this trail is to extend it to the north and connect it to the Mud Creek Trail.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Are Trails a Part of Your City's Master Plan?

If you are reading this blog, chances are you're a fan of trails.  If you want your city to build more trails, you better make sure they are a part of the parks, transportation, or planning departments' Master Plans.  Communities often spend a lot of time developing these plans and decisions on funding and spending are typically based on the priorities spelled out in them.

If your municipality has a master plan than focuses entirely on building more baseball fields, then you might want to attend planning meetings and public comment periods in order to get trail planning and creation included.  Since dirt paths are pretty cheap and easy to make and maintain, there shouldn't be much resistance to at least including some nature trails in the plan.  Well-lit, paved trails are much more expensive, but they are still cheaper than roads and can often be funded largely using grants from federal and other sources.

If your town doesn't have an official plan, they should make one!  You should look over the ones included below and encourage them to use the best ones as a model. Many cities around the country have passed Complete Streets ordinances. These call for streets (and transportation dollars) to be used for the benefit of all modes of transportation. This means giving pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus riders the same priority as cars and in practice it often means wider sidewalks, protected bikelanes, lower speed limits, safer intersections, and more trails. Ask your local elected officials if your town has a complete streets ordinance.

Below are links to Master Plans for municipalities around the state.  If you know of one I've missed, send me a link and I'll add it:

Fayetteville:  ParksPlanning
Little Rock: Parks,  Planning
North Little Rock: No Parks, Planning

Bentonville: Parks, Planning
Bryant: Parks, Planning (These links need to be updated.  Here is a Transportation Plan Map with trails.)
Conway:  No Parks, Planning
Ft. Smith:  Parks, Planning
Hot Springs: Parks, Planning
Springdale: Parks, Planning
Eureka Springs: Trails

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Separate Trails are Better Than Bike Lanes

Updated 6/9/14: Here is an article about a study showing ridership increases when cities build protected bike lanes and click here to learn about Protected Intersections.

American cities, in an attempt to find quick and cheap solutions to the increased demand for safe ways to travel by bike, have largely resorted to segregating bikes from traffic using a thin white strip of paint.  This lets them say they are creating miles and miles of bike lanes and doing the right thing, while not really having to spend much time or money addressing the problem.
The sad reality that is becoming painfully clear is that white lines of paint don't protect bikes from cars.  A recent article in The Economist points out that Americans are 3-5 times more likely to die while biking than their counterparts in much more bike-friendly Western Europe.  The article points out that the main reasons for this are:
1.  White lines of paint tend to be ignored by automobile drivers and unenforced by police.  These same millimeter-thick lines of pigment, apparently fail to keep cars travelling 30-40 mph from slamming into bikes travelling much slower.
2.  Collisions between cars travelling 40 mph and bikes travelling at typical bike speeds typically result in a fatality.
3.  In Europe, cars that mix openly with bikes are limited to speeds under 20 mph.
4.  Most bike routes in Europe are completely separate from roads.  Bikes often have their own network of paved trails and when they overlap roads, large concrete barriers separate bicycle traffic from potentially lethal automobiles.

American cities, like Portland, that have followed the European example have managed to drastically reduce bike fatalities.  Sadly, cities in Arkansas are lagging far behind (as usual) and a tragic price is being paid.  There have been multiple bicyclist deaths in Arkansas that could have been prevented if suitable bike infrastructure had been in place.

It is for these reasons that I advocate for bike/pedestrian networks of trails that are completely separate from roads.  Painted bike lanes on busy roads are a misguided and horrible mistake.  Let's build safe alternative transportation routes that protect all our citizens.

Useful Links:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coleman Creek Greenway Updates

Having worked on the Coleman Creek Greenway Committee, driven trackhoes and bulldozers, and planted trees for the project, this trail is special to me.  The eventual goal here is to have a trail running from the north end of War Memorial Park down to Fourche Creek, just south of Asher Ave./Col. Glenn Rd.

So far two small parts at the far ends are done while much of the middle section could be done quickly if funds were made available.  In fact, large parts of the middle section are already paved!  In War Memorial, there is a paved trail along the entire length of the creek in the park.  The only problem is that despite being told by well-paid consultants to do so, the city hasn't yet closed the golf course, so non-golfers are discouraged from walking that trail.  (If you didn't already know, I think the golf course should be converted into a joint Little Rock Parks / UALR Botanical Garden.)

Down at UALR, the plan is to eventually close one or both sides of Campus Dr., the road that runs through campus along the creek.  This already paved surface would then become part of the Coleman Creek Greenway.

The first two maps below show the completed sections of the trail.  This top map shows the Trail of Tears Park that forms the southern tip of the trail on UALR campus.  As you might guess from the name, this park has informative signs about the Trail of Tears, which passed by this site.  The park also features a variety of native trees, wildflowers, and grasses.  The area just to the north of the park is also already paved, but is currently serving as a parking lot.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wilson Park Loop

I don't usually go for runs (or do anything) the day after a 20 mile bike ride, but given that today was the first day of perfect weather in months, I had to get outdoors.  I haven't been to many parks in Fayetteville yet, so I decided to hit up Wilson Park.  To get there, I jogged up the Frisco Trail to Prospect St. and over to the park.    A wide, nearly one-mile long, concrete path loops around the park.  The highlights of the loop for me were the stream crossing on the west side and the Gaudi-inspired, Frank Williams sculpture in the northeast corner.  The park also has facilities for tennis, basketball, baseball, and swimming.

When Bikes Beat Cars

When I lived in Berkeley, it was faster to bike almost anywhere within a 4 mile radius than it was to drive and find parking.  This was due to very progressive transportation policies and road designs that put bikes first and cars second.  But what about in Arkansas, a non-progressive place where cars and trucks rule?

I used to live in the Riverdale area and worked in North Little Rock off Northshore Dr.  I commuted by bike sometimes when the weather was nice and was pleasantly surprised to find that it took me roughly the same amount of time to bike as it did to drive.  How is that possible you might ask?  Well, thanks to the Big Dam Bridge, my bike commute was 5-6 miles, while my driving commute was 9, on a road with lots of traffic lights or 14 miles taking the interstate.  Now, obviously I can't bike 60 or 45 mph or even half of that, but think about what your average speed really is during rush hour.  If I averaged 12 mph by bike, I'd get there in the same amount of time as if I averaged 20 mph on Cantrell which has lots of traffic, numerous lights, and often a 5 minute wait to get on the highway.

This got me wondering if there were other commutes in Arkansas where bikes beat cars as opposed to being 20 minutes slower, but healthier and lots more fun.

If you have a bike commute that is faster than your car commute let me know and I'll put it up here!

Here is the most drastic example I've found:

Crunch Time for Razorback Trail

Bill Bowden, of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had an interesting article (pay wall) in the paper last week on the future of the Razorback Trail.  Apparently, $10 million of a federal grant goes up in smoke unless plans for the trail are finalized by Dec. 31.
Current plans for the Razorback Trail include connecting existing trails with new sections of trail to form a continuous 36 mile trail from south Fayetteville all the way to north Bentonville.  Completed sections of the trail in Fayetteville and Bentonville already connect to multiple spur or feeder trails.
Given the rush hour traffic in NW Arkansas, I imagine there may be thousands of people who could bike to work using this trail in roughly the same amount of time it takes to drive.  Factor in the benefits of no road rage and not having to spend time at the gym on days you bike to work and this trail starts looking really good for commuters.

Maps of the proposed trail can be viewed at:

The Case for a Botanical Garden in War Memorial Park

Several years ago, the City of Little Rock paid consultants a good amount of money to make recommendations for War Memorial Park, an underused city park in a great, central location.  After lots of public meetings, the consultants came out with their recommendations.  One of the main recommendations was that the golf course should be closed and converted to non-designated use open space, the idea being that many more people would make use of that area for picnics, walks, bike rides, and tossing frisbees and footballs, than the small number of people who currently play golf there.
One recommendation I made at those public meetings and would like to expand on here is that Little Rock should build a Botanical Garden in War Memorial Park.  Here are some reasons why I think this would be a good idea:

1.  An open botanical garden would count as non-designated use open-space, which consultants said would get the most use by area residents.  Add to that that golf is in a long decline and War Memorial typically loses more money than the other public golf courses in Little Rock.
2.  At 50+ acres, the western part of War Memorial Park is comparable in size to botanical gardens around the country. 
3.  Fayetteville has a botanical garden and Little Rock doesn't.
4.  A botanical garden in War Memorial would have a natural connection to the nearby zoo.  People interested in animals are often also interested in plants.
5.  An open botanical garden would be relatively affordable to build.  Very little trailwork would be needed, as there are already paved asphalt trails there thanks to the golf course.
6.  UALR should have a botanical garden and greenhouses for educational and research purposes.  War Memorial Park is close to the University and will eventually be connected to it by the Coleman Creek Greenway.  Having a partner in funding the botanical garden would make it even more affordable for the city.
7.  A botanical garden in that location would give people visiting nearby hospitals a scenic, peaceful place to relax.
8.  With a creek, pond and drier, rockier areas uphill from those water features, the park could easily host a wide range of plant species.  There are already lots of native plant species present, and this diversity should increase with the trail improvements currently underway along Coleman Creek.
9.  It would be awesome to see 200' Dawn Redwoods, Incense Cedars, and other exotic (but non-invasive) tree species towering over the park.  These would make interesting landmarks visible from the Interstate.

View Little Rock Botanical Gardens in a larger map

Sunday, September 4, 2011

First Impression: Fayetteville is Hilly, but has Nice Trails.

Today I went on my first long bike ride in Fayetteville since moving here for school.  From my daily commute, I already knew that Fayetteville was a pretty hilly place, but today I finally got to explore the main trail in town that all the other little trails want to be like or at least connect to.  The split personality Frisco/Scull Creek/Mud Creek Trail(s) run from southern Fayetteville up to southern Springdale.  My route is shown on the map.  While the ride took me through some scenic and not-so-scenic areas, the coolest part may have been biking through a long, dark, tunnel under the interstate.

Fourche Bottoms Park - Time to Make it Happen

Fourche Bottoms Park is an enormous city park that no one in the city knows about.  A major reason no one knows about it, is that no work has been done there.  No roads, trails, boardwalks, or bathrooms have been built.  Nothing has been done, even though way back in the early 1980's the Corps of Engineers authorized a project to preserve 1,750 acres of the bottoms and build nature appreciation features there.  Much of the Fourche Bottoms and nearby Fourche Creek floodplain are publicly owned.  The BFI landfill is now closed and will be transferred to the city once capping is complete.
In fact, we have a massive 4,000 acre area of contiguous public land that includes Brodie Creek Park, Boyle Park, the Coleman Creek Greenway, Hindman Park, Fourche Bottoms, the State Fairgrounds, Interstate Park, and the Audubon Center that could all be connected with trails if we could just get the Fourche Bottoms trails done.
This trail system could also connect to the planned Rose Creek Trail and the Swaggerty Creek Trail at Crump and Interstate Parks.

If the thought of this massive area of public land being connected with paved trails and boardwalks excites you, you are in luck!  There are already several groups planning and working to make this a reality.
Visit ACE Summary, or for more information.  Or ask me on here.
Fourche Bottoms Park Trails, Little Rock, Arkansas, Hindman Park
Fourche Bottoms Park and Proposed Trails.
Grey Lines - Proposed Trails
Red Lines - Existing Unpaved Trails
Black Lines - Existing Paved Trails.
Here is a Google Map of the same area since I realize I didn't really label any roads on the map above:

Building Bridges - Connecting Communities, Trails, and Parks

This year has been a big one for bridge building in Little Rock. The Big Dam bridge got a baby brother this summer when the Little Maumelle bridge was completed.  This attractive and already heavily used bridge connects an extension of the River Trail to Two Rivers Park.  For most Little Rockians, this makes Two Rivers Park much more accessible, as people living in Riverdale, The Heights, and Hillcrest can now bike to Two Rivers in less time than it would take them to drive.

Down the river on the other side of town, the Junction Bridge is expecting a sibling as well.  The Rock Island bridge is getting a face-lift and will soon play host to bikers and pedestrians travelling between Little Rock and North Little Rock or making the River Trail loop.  Unlike the Junction Bridge, this bridge has a continuous ramp, so bikers will no longer have to dismount and take lots of stairs or an elevator to get across the river.

These bridges and the trails they connect, will have (and are already having) a major positive impact on the quality of life and health of the citizens of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Where should the next bridge be built?  Somewhere over Fourche Creek?  Between the Big Dam Bridge and the Junction Bridge?  Or would that money be better spent helping pave some of the many proposed trails out there?

Trails in Little Rock - Going Beyond Recreation

Little Rock has spent a lot of money on trails and will hopefully and likely continue to do so for years to come. So far, most of these trails are short and disconnected, making the suitable only for recreation and not for commuting. One major exception to this is the River Trail. Lots of people use it for recreation, but a sizable number of people also use it to get to work without hopping in a car. Given the health benefits of walking and biking, and the negative impacts of driving (traffic, air pollution, road rage, greenhouse gas emissions...) wouldn't it be great if our community expanded other trails and connected them to the River Trail in order to make it easier for more people from more locations in the city to get places safely by bike or foot?

Some neighborhoods are already working to make this happen. The Stift Station/Capitol View neighborhood has plans for a paved trail along Rose Creek that would connect the neighborhood to the River Trail, giving residents a scenic and safe way to get downtown while avoiding automobiles.

UALR and Little Rock Parks are working on a trail along Coleman Creek that would connect residential, commercial, and park areas to the University in Midtown.

Rock Creek, which flows from Chenal Valley essentially to UALR, already has multiple sections of paved trail along its banks. If these sections were connected, people in West Little Rock would be able to bike between their homes and nearby shopping areas or even all the way to Midtown without having to share busy streets with speeding cars.

The map below shows what these connections might look like. If you like any of these ideas be sure to share them with your friends and elected officials.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rae Lakes Loop - Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park, California

In August of 2011, some friends and I backpacked the popular Rae Lakes loop in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park.  We opted to hike it clockwise in order to give ourselves more time to acclimate before tackling the nearly 12,000 ft. Glen Pass.  The trail begins at Roads End on Hwy. 180 and the drive in along the Kings Canyon is spectacular.

Covering about 38 miles (NPS website says 46, Nat Geo Topo says 38) and going from 5,000 to almost 12,000 ft. and back, we were shocked to encounter people attempting to run the loop in a day.  Seeing that they only had bananas and water I hope they made it!  Since the route is quite popular, you should make reservations early or be prepared to show up early for some first-come-first-served quota action.

Highlights of the trip included very social deer (stalking us for our salt emissions), amazing valleys, swimming in the incredible Rae Lakes, dipping toes in nearly frozen lakes over the pass, and conquering the still very snowy and steep Glen Pass.

Bridge on Rae Lakes Loop

Big Pinecones!

Rae Lakes Loop Bathroom, California, Kings Canyon National Park
Throne with a View

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
First Glimpse of Rae Lakes Area

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Ranger Station Resupply

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Rae Lakes Reflection

Glen Pass, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Glen Pass

Glen Pass, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Up to Glen Pass

Glen Pass, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Last Bit to Glen Pass

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Glen Pass, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Coming Down

Cold Lake near Glen Pass, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Rae Lakes Loop Panarama

Deer, Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park
Nosy Neighbors

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

Rae Lakes Loop, King Canyon/Sequoia National Park

View Rae Lakes in a larger map

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Andorra Hikes

Back in June 2011, Angela and I did two great hikes in Andorra as part of a larger trip around Europe.  Something like 80% of Andorra is owned by ski resorts, but there are still some beautiful less-touched valleys to explore.  One very interesting thing about hiking or backpacking in Andorra, and I imagine elsewhere in Europe, is the presence of "refugi" or refuges, which are cabins you can stay in.  Many of them even have restaurants or at least drinks and snacks available for purchase.

The first hike left out of Arinsal in the west of the country.  You can get most places using the bus system, but this can leave you with some extra miles hiking on roads.  Our original goal was to get to the highest point in Andorra, Coma Pedrosa and the point nearby where Spain, France, and Andorra meet.  We changed our minds pretty shortly after starting the hike (green line on map below) and decided to head west up to the Refugi De Coma Pedrosa (at end of blue line).  This Refugi is situated in a scenic valley and by a small mad-made lake.  It offers beds to sleep on and also has sandwiches, soups, and drinks.  After eating lunch there, we continued uphill to a ridge that took us briefly into Spain before heading back down into Arinsal via the seasonally abandoned Valnord ski slopes (red line).

After taking a day to relax, we did a second hike in the eastern part of the country up the Vall d'Incles.  Using the bus system added about four miles to our hike, but the entire valley was so scenic we didn't mind.  This hike was much more popular than our first, likely due to a lower starting elevation and lower elevation gain.  The first part of this hike (green section) is not very steep as it heads up the beautiful pastoral valley for about 2 miles along the road.  As you leave the road behind, the trail gets rockier and steeper (blue section).  After another 1.5 miles and a ~1,300' gain in elevation, you come to the Refugi de Jucia near the shores of two lakes, Estany Primer de Juclar and Estany Segon de Juclar.  Angela enjoyed her time here by reading a book and relaxing at the refugi, while I swam in the frigid lake (a backpacking tradition of mine) and hiked up to the top of the ridge on the far side of the lakes which marks the border with France.

Andorra hike trail
Andorra hike trail Refugi De Coma Pedrosa Johnnie Chamberlin
Food Selection at Refugi De Coma Pedrosa

Refugi Coma Pedrosa Andorra hike trail

Andorra hike trail

Andorra hike trail

Wildflowers Andorra hike trail

Andorra hike trail

Andorra hike trail

ski lift Andorra hike trail

Vall d'Incles Andorra hike trail
Vall d'Incles

Andorra hike trail

Andorra hike trail

Estany de Juclar Andorra hike trail
Estany de Juclar

Estany de Juclar mountains lake Andorra hike trail

Arinsal - Refugi De Coma Pedrosa Hike

View Andorra Hikes in a larger map

Vall d'Incles Hike

View Andorra Hikes in a larger map

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bad Hiking, Camping, and Backpacking Jokes

I love horrible puns and started this piece mostly to exercise my brain. I started this in 2015, but have changed the date so only people who've searched for bad jokes will come across it, thus sparing any regular readers I may have from having to see these.

Here goes.

What is the laziest trail in the United States?
The Pacific Rest Trail
(Very different from the rugged 2,650 mile long trail through the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington.)

What is the cleanest trail in Arkansas?
The Wash-it-all Trail.
Cleaner, but less scenic than the Ouachita Trail.

Can you float the Buffalo this time of year?
I dunno canoe?

Boyle Park and Burns Park are so hot right now.

That's all for now. More to come, or maybe not!