Big River Crossing a focus of Delta Byways gathering

Big River Crossing a focus of Delta Byways gathering

Board convenes in West Memphis for quarterly meeting, gets rundown on BRX, regional park

Arkansas Delta Byways board of directors met in West Memphis for its quarterly meeting. Tourism representatives from Clay to Chicot counties and everywhere along the west river bank in between traveled to the Gateway City to conduct business and hear the real story about tourism and see development in the city. Ambassadors from 15 counties were hosted by West Memphis Conventions and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jim Jackson loaded onto a tour bus and headed to the Big River Crossing (BRX) for a literal overview of the new Delta River Regional Park.

West Memphis has long been known as an intersection interstate highways.

So, as City Planner Paul Luker met the group at the BRX landing spot and said they stood at a new crossroads for tourism in the region.

“This is where three big ideas come together, the Big River Crossing, the Delta Regional River park, and the 70 mile Mississippi River Trail,” said Luker.

A new path called the spur had just been completed. It runs along the north side of the Harahan Bridge and circles around right at the edge of the river.

“The spur was completed entirely with private money,” said Luker.

The group buzzed with excitement and took lots of memento photos as it trekked over the river on the BRX. Official visitors counts had just been released for the first year of the bridge walk. They looked at the decorative led light strips that provided 45 shows last year and stood with amazement as a train rumbled overhead. Train enthusiasts, hikers, cyclists and photographers have been drawn to the bridge by their interests and the interactive opportunities built into the bridge crossing experience.

The Delta Byways group representatives were amazed to learn nearly 250,000 people had visited the bridge. Pedestrians accounted for the vast majority of the visits while cyclists rode for 15 percent of the crossings. The group heard about the honors and awards for the new boardwalk. The bridge landed recognition for the International Waterfront Excellence in Design Award, the American Architecture Award, the Inside Memphis Business Innovation Award and the Memphis Business Journal Memphis Awards for Project of the Year. The BRX was featured 150 times in print and electronic media, most recently in the October issue of Civil Engineering. Word about the new bridge crossing created visits from far and wide during the inaugural year. The BRX recorded social media check-ins from 49 states.

Back to the newly remodeled Eugene Woods Civic Center in West Memphis, Jackson pointed out the presentation technology, decor and amenity improvements. He covered the remodeling project in the 1974 Civic Auditorium next door, and used the platform to tout development in the city. Jackson viewed the opportunity as a dry run for next years Governor’s Conference on Tourism coming to the city.

“We have two new welcome signs which welcome people from the east,” said Jackson. “Both are on the levee, one on Interstate 40 and the other on I 55 . That had been worked on for forty years.”

Jackson gave kudos to his Advertising and Promotions Commission funding and the St. Francis Levee District for its collaboration in bringing the colorful solar lit project to fruition.

Jackson touted the positive developments in West Memphis.

“We’ve got three new hotels in the works, two coming out of the ground and one coming off the drawing board,” said Jackson. “It’s a good thing. People are investing in this community.

“We’ve got a new hospital that should be done within the year. We are real proud of that. We need our health care and these are all positives for our economic development. We think it will stir some nearby retail development.”

Jackson issued an invitation to the group to join in the statewide conference here next year.

“We are going to have the 2018 conference on tourism here next year,” said Jackson. “It will be mostly at Southland Park Gaming and Racing as they have the room. We will do some different extra-curricular things.”

By John Rech