River Park hit hard by high waters this winter
Extent of flood damage to bike trail still being evaluated
Engineers are evaluating the extent of the flood damage to the bicycle trail at Delta Regional River Park, but planners says they will fix the trail and have it back open for cyclists.
“We’re still trying to assess what happened,” said West Memphis city planner Paul Luker. “We knew we were going to have to deal with the river all along.
I’ve got engineers evaluating it… we’re just going to need some time. But the goal is to get it back to where people can access it.”
Delta Regional River Park was opened in November 2017 and is a 5.5 mile looping trail from the Big River Crossing north to the Hernando DeSoto Bridge and back.
The asphalt trail suffered major damage due to record level Mississippi River flooding which washed parts of the trail out.
Luker said they knew the trail would flood, but nobody knew what the impact on the trail would be.
“We knew we were going to get water in there,” Luker said. “It’s been under water before. But we’ve never seen anything like this before and until it happens, you don’t know how you are going to react to it.”
Luker said they have no idea yet how much it will cost to repair the damage.
Aside from the paved sections,
the bulk of the trail is
on county roads.
The trail was paid for using a $1 million grant from Arkansas Highway Department. The grant was an 80-20 match. The matching funds came from West Memphis Advertising and Promotion Commission and private donors.
Luker said they are looking
at every engineering option to be able to rebuild the paved sections, but there may also be other less expensive options as well.
“Some things we may be able to engineer our way out of,” Luker said. “But if that’s too costly, the surface may just have to be different so that it is low maintenance and easily maintained when the water goes down. It might not look like the rest of the trail system in places. I don’t know if that is the answer.
But everything is on the table. The goal is not to be a boondoggle.”
County Judge Woody Wheeless said he also doesn’t know how much it will cost to fix the washed out portions of the road, but notes that the county is responsible for maintaining Dacus Lake Road and Robinson Road whether the trail is there or not.
“That is stuff we have to repair anyway even if it wasn’t called a park,” Wheeless said. “Once the river goes down we have to get that road back up to a condition where people can drive on it. So we aren’t doing anything different today than we have been doing over the last 20 years.”
Wheeless said they even have leftover asphalt from the contractor to use to replace the pavement.
“All that is recycled asphalt,” Wheeless said.
“And we’ve got enough asphalt to repair those areas.”
Luker admits the trail took a big hit, but said they are still committed to the project because they believe the park will be a big asset to the community and will draw more tourists.
“This particular flood was pretty significant — number 11 on the historical scale,” Luker said. “ There aren’t a lot of places where you have that kind of current. That river is a mystery. It does something different every time it comes up. But the other side of this is that the river can be an asset to the community if we want to try and utilize it. And that’s what we are trying to do.
People love the Mississippi River. It’s nostalgic. It’s iconic. They want to get close to it. This is a new project. We’re going to need some time to evaluate and see what we need to know about the repairs. But I wouldn’t hit the panic button. People are going to be able to use it fairly soon.”
By Mark Randall