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Visit the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge

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The Rock Island Bridge before renovations.

The Rock Island Bridge before renovations.

Amanda Galiano

What:

The Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, or Rock Island Bridge, is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge in downtown Little Rock near the Clinton Presidential Center. It connects Little Rock to North Little Rock by traversing the Arkansas River, and allows pedestrian access to attractions on both sides of the river including Heifer International, Verizon Arena, Dickey Stephen Park, the River Market and the Argenta Arts District. It's one of Little Rock's "Six Bridges."

The bridge is also part of the Arkansas River Trail system and completes a 15 mile loop of continuous trail. Prior to the completion of the bridge, cyclists and walkers had to stop and board an elevator or stairs to cross the river at the Junction Bridge. The Clinton Presidential Park Bridge allows a non-stop trip around the River Trail loop.

Where / When:

The bridge's Little Rock entrance is in the Clinton Presidential Park at 1200 President Clinton Avenue (map). The North Little Rock entrance is at Ferry Street (map), near a residential neighborhood.

All River Trail bridges are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week unless other announced and are pet and cyclist friendly.

You can exit the bridge in Little Rock at celebration circle and head for Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer International, or continue on the River Trail to the River Market and other downtown destinations.

There is not as much to do directly on the river on the North Little Rock side, but there is access to the River Trail. The historic Argenta district and Verizon Arena are just a short walk from that side. North Little Rock has plans to renovate the area.

History:

The Clinton Presidential Park Bridge is also known as the Rock Island Bridge, and is a former railway bridge. This bridge was built in 1899 for the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad, and led to the Choctaw station. The Choctaw station is now the home of the Clinton School for Public Service, the Clinton Public Policy Institute and the Clinton Foundation.

The renovation of the Rock Island Bridge was 7 years in the making. The Clinton foundation agreed to renovate the bridge in its 2001 formal request to lease land for the Clinton Presidential Center from Little Rock for $1 a year. They estimated the project to be $4 million, and had planned to open the bridge in 2004 along with the Clinton Presidential Center. However, those cost estimates proved to be too low, partly due to an increase in the cost of steel. The renovation project actually needed $10.5 million, which nobody was able to finance.

Construction on the project was started in 2010 after $2.5 million in stimulus funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration completed the fundraising. Other sources of funds for the bridge includes $1 million from Little Rock, $4 million from the Clinton Foundation, $2.5 million from the state, $750,000 from North Little Rock and $250,000 from private donors.

The bridge opened on October 2, 2011.

Bill Clark Wetland Park:

In conjunction with the bridge, the land around the site was also renovated. Bill Clark Wetland Park is 13 acres of land along the Arkansas River, complete with pedestrian trails, elevated walkways and interpretative displays. The park is designed so parts will remain undisturbed, preserving wildlife and plants in the area.

Fun Facts:

Originally, the bridge was a swing-span bridge, but a lift-span was added in 1972 to meet the requirements of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System.

The bridge is 1,614 feet long.

Bill Clinton on the Bridge Project:

"The conversion of the historic railroad bridge into a pedestrian pathway will give Central Arkansas a distinctive landmark and will complete one of the best urban trail systems in the country. By connecting important destinations, including my Presidential Center, the bridge will also support revitalization efforts in downtown Little Rock."

The Six Bridges:

One of the most prominent features of the Little Rock skyline has always been the "six bridges" over the Arkansas River (photo of the six bridges from the Butler Center). The Clinton Presidential Center was designed to look like a bridge in reference to that skyline. Those six bridges are the Baring Cross Bridge, the Broadway Bridge, the Main Street Bridge, the Junction Bridge, the I-30 Bridge and Rock Island Bridge.

Another set of bridges is being designed to connect the parks along the Arkansas River and allow people to hike or bike from the Clinton center to Pinnacle Mountain and the Ouachita Trail. Four of those bridges are open: the Two Rivers Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge, The Junction Bridge and Clinton Presidential Park bridge.

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