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Big River Trail expanding on WM side

Big River Trail expanding on WM side

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Big River Trail expanding on WM side

BRT gets thumbs up from traveling cyclist

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More than a quarter of the visits to the Big River Crossing originate on the West Memphis side. And why not? There is much to do in the Big River Trail that begins at the western landing. The park developed by private donations and air quality funds with five-and-half miles of riverside trails looping between the Harahan and DeSoto Bridges has drawn some happy hikers and bicyclists to the BRT.

West Memphis City Planner Paul Luker showed off the results and provided a tour of another half mile expansion under development. The new trail spur will run right next to the water, moves north from the BRX bridge, through the woods, over a deep flood washout spot traversed by a suspended steel cable bridge with a 25 foot drop. Designers called it a swinging bridge to draw a picture, but did not expect a feeling of motion for those up in the air. The path puts hikers and bikers into the shade and offers a chance to see eye to eye with birds in the branches and wildlife on the ground in the woods. Again a private donor has backed a substantial part of the trail expansion and farmers provided a right of way easement for the trail to follow.

“It’’s just under a mile round trip,” said Luker of the spur being built.

Flood water showed its force along the trail during it inaugural season and taught the city planner a lot about design requirements of the BRT in the river flood plain.

“It’s not just the water but the driftwood and debris it brings with it,” said Luker.

“Those things are like bulldozers.”

Visitors walk the span of the BRX daily into Arkansas and some of the hikers, and cyclists make the turn to the north to tour the Delta Regional River Park on a circuit comprised of an improved Dacus Lake and Robinson Road and the BRT. One cyclist from Chattanooga stopped to chat while chugging through the park on a weekday morning. He had read reports in cycling magazines and tourism guides and decided to make the BRT an overnight stop.

He and his wife dined and stayed the night in a local hotel. Peddling through the park he took in the views and stopped to ask about the various crops planted in the bottom land and shared his cycling experience of his eco-tour through Arkansas.

Like other cycling tourists, moved more slowly, spent more nights, dined out for more meals and took in more details, as he push petals through the delta scenery. The river park offered a view of the both river bridges and framing the Memphis skyline. With all that, what did John Carter notice? Local crops may not impress those that see them daily, but the farmed expanses left a beautiful impression on the Arkansas traveler.

“This is beautiful here, is this soybeans?” said Carter.

“We went by miles of fields yesterday that was rice.”

Carter, an active and fit retiree, said the trail ride was the best on his tour. His vacation had included cycling along the Arkansas River trail and a ride across the Big Dam Bridge. The tourist was most impressed with West Memphis.

“This exceeded all the hype in the bike magazines and reports,” said Carter.

“The trail is beautifully done. I’ve ridden my bike all around the southeast part of the country. This is by far the best cycling experience. You should all be proud of this trail.”

Luker invited area residents to make the trek along the BRT. In addition to the city-scapes and country views, a sunflower patch in it’s late summer glory was set to greet visitors. You won’t have far to travel. The sight seeing begins at the Bridgeport exit on Southbound Interstate 55 or the Big River Trail Head across Broadway from Panchos.

That was planted for the doves, but many people are posting photos taken at this spot,” said Luker.

 

By John Rech

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