Little Rock-aka BTR North?

This post first appeared on in July 2010-so if some of the background is redundant, well then you get to read it twice.

Before I dive in, I’ll give you a little about me. My name is Pat Fellows and healthy living is kind of my deal. I am a running shoe sales rep for Mizuno, I own a healthy salad restaurant called FRESH Salads + Wraps, and I am part owner of Rocket Racing, a company that puts on 8 races a year (Rocketchix, Rocketkidz, Goldenflier 5&10, and so on). I live it in all that I do. I am an avid believer that Baton Rouge needs a better trail system (aka 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 @ 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 last week with my friend Gary Taylor, we were discussing the parks. He said he talked to Terry a while back about the system and the timeline and goals for it. Mr. Eastin said the original plan was 20 yrs 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 below and visit it if you ever pass through. Maybe if enough of us yell, we could get something like this for our city….

3 thoughts on “Little Rock-aka BTR North?

  1. Good Morning Mr. Fellows,

    Really good article and I have a few questions for you and about the trail system, or lack of. First it has been many years since I have been in the south so I am unaware of any trail systems. One of the things that has been done in New England is the rails to trails imitative. Old rail systems that are no longer being used have been converted to a very well kept trail system. We thank “Slick Willy Clinton” for that imitative. Most of our trails here in CT are on National Forrest land, but most of the upkeep is done by hikers, bikers, and trail running, granola eating, weed smoking, mushroom munching neo hippies. I would have to say that I have the opposite problem, I can not figure out which trail to run (I stay away from MTN biking due to spinal cord injury from doing such). I do have to say that the way of life here in the north is so completely different from the south weather you compare it to healthy lifestyles, political viewpoints, education, and bipitybopityboo… I always thought that if business, political, and educational leaders in the south would invest in healthy research based interventions for the people in their communities you would see more happy, healthy, educated, and less obese people in the south. Well to sum this up if there is any info I can get you on how trails are formed here in the Northeast just let me know. It’s nice to see that you promote a healthy way of living in the south.

    1. PJ,
      They do have some of these rails to trails initiatives in Louisiana-the Tammany Trace in Mandeville being one of them. In Baton rouge things move slow (think glaciers), but the idea is to keep on it. There are several items on the list that are in the works here, I just sometimes fight whether I should stay and fight for them, or go somewhere where there are already the things I want and enjoy the next 20 yrs.
      On a related note, the Coast missed an opportunity to put a bike lane/trail from the Bay to OS when they redid Hwy 90 after Katrina, however, in true governmental form, FEMA would only build the roads back to what they were before the storm, and I guess MS either didn’t have the money or the foresight to do it.
      Thanks for continuing to read.

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