Thursday, January 29, 2015

Murphy Park - Springdale

Located in the heart of Springdale near the library, high school, and historic downtown, Murphy Park is a great place for families to gather. When I went, there were ducks and geese everywhere, children fishing, biking, and playing on the playground, and families picnicking.

The park has a network of paths totaling about a mile in length.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Emerald Park / Big Rock Quarry / Burns Park News

Updated 1/27/15: Added map provided by NLR Parks.

Yesterday, I read some interesting news about a land deal that was recently approved by the National Park Service. With the few details in that document, I was a bit worried about the idea of converting 73 acres of Burns Park into commercial property in exchange for adding ~50 acres of Big Rock Quarry to the park system, but I called North Little Rock Parks and got some details about the deal.

First, if it seems odd that the National Park Service was involved in approving this deal, that is the result of Burns Park having received federal funding in the past.

Second, the land Burns Park is losing, is shown on the map below as the yellow bed. Located on the south side of Charles Boyer Dr. and the east side of the interstate, the land isn't well connected to the rest of the park and is currently unused. Plans call for part of the land to be used for a lodge.

Finally, it is great news that Big Rock Quarry is becoming park land officially. People have enjoyed this scenic area for a long time and it was recently threatened with private development.

I've got photos and other information on the Emerald Park, Big Rock Quarry area at the links below and in the book Trails of Central Arkansas:

More information:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Need for Complete Streets and Greater Active Transportation Funding in Arkansas

Updated 4/22/2015: Little Rock passed a Complete Streets Ordinance 

I found out today that the Little Rock City Board of Directors voted last night to defer voting on a complete streets ordinance. North Little Rock and Conway (updated from comments) are the only Arkansas cities I know of with complete street policies or ordinances (let me know if there are more) so I wanted to share some thoughts on why communities in Arkansas need them and why developers shouldn't be scared of them.

First, what are Complete Streets?
"Complete Streets ... are designed to encourage safe street access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders."
Worded differently, they place pedestrians, bicyclists, bus users, baby strollers, and wheelchair users at the same priority level as automobiles.

So why does Arkansas need them?

1. Too many bicyclists and pedestrians are being killed by collisions with cars and many of these deaths could be prevented with better street/trail design.

2. Whether city directors or developers like it or not, people, in particular younger educated people, millennials, and the "creative class" that all states and cities fight to attract, want to live in walkable communities. Arkansas cities currently rank very low in terms of walkability and this needs to improve if we want to continue to attract young professionals and keep our best and brightest from fleeing to the coasts.

3. This article by Drew Linder, a Fort Smith banker, highlights many of the economic and social benefits of active transportation infrastructure and gives great reasons for why funding for such infrastructure needs to be increased in Forth Smith (and Arkansas as a whole).
Some key takeaways:
"A nationwide study by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that $1 million invested in bicycle infrastructure resulted in 11.4 new jobs. That’s more than the 7.8 jobs for $1 million invested in road-only projects."
"The September 26, 2014 Wall Street Journal had an article about how trails and bike lanes are spurring real estate development in a number of cities. They appeal to both '20 and 30-somethings who want to live closer to work and to older baby boomers looking for a more walkable, bike-able lifestyle.'"
"On a more local level, the Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission noted the importance of quality of life amenities as a recruiting and retention tool. The two specific examples he gave were craft breweries and trails systems. He said they provide a “cool factor” that cities need in order to be competitive. "

4. Complete Streets, protected bike lanes, and bike trails spur economic growth and development. It is ironic then that much of the opposition to complete streets ordinances seems to come from developers. Putting these policies in place will improve public safety and boost our local economies. Over 700 jurisdictions have enacted complete streets policies, with over 70 communities doing so in 2014. This is not some newfangled untested concept that heaps unbearable expenses on developers, as some would have us believe.

If you believe Arkansas needs complete streets and better funding for active transportation infrastructure, please let your local elected officials know and pass this information along to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Trails of Disney World

While engaging in the Great American Pilgrimage (aka Family Trip to Disney World) for the second time in my life, I decided to see what this bastion of American culture, capitalism, and consumerism had in the way of trails and nature.

While they could do a lot more in terms of hiking and biking infrastructure (call me if you need ideas) we did manage to get in a nice float, nature walk/hike, and a jog.

The Float

We rented kayaks at the Bike Barn in the middle of the Fort Wilderness Campground. The smallest loop there is about a mile long, but we threw in a little extra and paddled about two miles. While it didn't feel entirely wild or natural, this float was unique. We saw lots of interesting birds, a few turtles, and no alligators while paddling through campsites and along channels that generally had one bank mowed (presumably for safety or accessibility).