I am an avid believer that Baton Rouge needs a better trail system (i.e., we need one). While some would look at the distances I travel for work as a job hazard, I try to look at it as an opportunity to discover and enjoy new places. I always pack a bike, running and swim gear as I like to be prepared to do whatever is available. My territory includes Alabama, Louisiana, Memphis, Mississippi and Arkansas and training and discovery opportunity abound. It took me about a year, and 30,000 miles of driving to find the right places to train. Huntsville has awesome off road trails, Mississippi has the Natchez trace to ride on and Arkansas... well, Arkansas is the most underrated state I have been to.
One day, my friend Amy and I had a conversation about how we wished our city had a decent trail system and I couldn't help but go on and on about the Millennium Trail System in Little Rock, Arkansas. A quick background on the city for those who know little about it. It is of course the capital of the state and weighs in at about 200,000 people with a metro area that bumps it closer to 700k. It was founded in 1722, buy French explorer Jean-Baptiste Benard de la Harpe and was home to your favorite bumpkin President, Slick Willy Clinton, who was Governor of Le Petite Roche from 78-92. I have a couple accounts in this town and really like it. It is situated on the Arkansas river and surprisingly has an incredible bike/running presence, which brings me full circle to the Millennium Trail system (or Arkansas River Trail).
Started with a $1.9 million dollar bond issue in 2003, and through other private monies raised by trail developer Terry Eastin, the Arkansas river trail consists of over 14 miles of asphalt trails (with 24 miles planned) on both sides of the Arkansas river. A map for it can be found here. You can get on your bike (or run) from the South side, cross the river at the Big Dam Bridge and weave your way along the North Little Rock side. Currently there is another bridge 7 miles or so east that connects back to downtown Little Rock as well as another being planned to the west of the Big Dam Bridge that will connect in another set of trails on an island in the River. In a word, it is awesome. Dotted along the mile marked trails are plenty of bathrooms, water fountains, a skate park, and so on and so on. The trail intersects multiple parks and also 3-4 roads that provide some pretty steep climbs.
When riding there with my friend Gary Taylor, we were discussing the parks. He said he talked to Terry awhile back about the system and the timeline and goals for it. Mr. Eastin said the original plan was 20 years long. They are currently way ahead of schedule. I stated how I wished we had this in Baton Rouge and that a lot of times we are too busy trying to compare ourselves to other cities. Gary replied "well don't feel bad, people here will still complain that this trail isn't anything like Seattle." I guess you can't please everyone. Take a look at the info and visit it if you ever pass through. Maybe if enough of us yell, we could get something like this for our city...
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