So after a 3 hour test this morning (number 3 of 7 for my architecture license), I got to spend the afternoon out at the Clinton Library. October 1st marks the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton announcing he was running for President. Saturday there will be a lot of events and speeches and entertainment but the big event for today was the dedication of the long awaited Clinton Presidential Park Bridge! (Or the Rock Island Pedestrian Bridge if you’re not a Clinton fan). The Rock Island Bridge was originally built in1899 and though the renovation of it was part of the original master plan for the Library, construction has been delayed over the years for budget reasons. The nearly 10 million dollar project is the eastern most piece of the 14 mile River Trail and is one of the final sections needed to be complete the loop. And what a jewel! The most important part of the bridge, unlike its twin the Junction Bridge just upriver, is this bridge does not elevators or stairs to get up and over the raised span, but rather a long gentle ramp that crosses the high span, making a continuous bridge up and over for bikers to ride across.
The dedication started late. Bill always seemed to work on his own clock. But the stage was filled with local and national politicians. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were there with their daughter Chelsea. Chelsea’s husband was also out in the crowd (who Bill took a couple of friendly father-in-law shots at). Governor Mike Beebe was there as well as Mayor Stodola and Mayor Hays. Mayor Hays seems like a pretty fun guy. He started his speech saying how nice it was to be back in South North Little Rock. Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines was also there. I got to shake his hand and thank him for everything he has done when I rode back across. Senator Pryor and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez were there too and I know there were also a few others I’m forgetting. There were also four other past governors in the crowd and even our representative Tim Griffin. President Clinton. Had a pretty good speech, joking about how appropriate it was that people used to say his library looked like a glorified trailer home (some still do) and now on the other end of his bridge there is a RV park. But towards the end of speech he took the time to talk about how angry uncompromising politicians made for great TV but bad government and how we needed to bridge the growing divide. My paraphrasing doesn’t do it justice but it was a pretty nice dedication. Not only was the new bridge dedicated but also the William Clark Wetlands Park. The Clark family was also up on stage for the park that would be named in memory of Bill Clark and the two young grandsons even lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Both the park and the bridge were dedicated and open to the public for a few hours today but will open to the public for good Sunday morning.
After all the speeches and Thankyous, we finally got to go across. There I stood in my jeans and t-shirt, no helmet and my cruiser bike with the big comfy seat, among a sea of neon colors jerseys and waaaay to tight bicycle pants with these thousands of dollars road bikes that make you ride with your butt above your head and a seat that look likes it would give you a prostate exam if you hit a bump! I actually had a guy stop me before I went over and say “I just wanted to tell you. You’re the most normal looking one out here.” Ha! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great so many people are interested in biking as a sport. I’m just more of a casual urban biker myself and proud of it!
The new construction on the bridge was pretty simple. But on such a great old structure like this, you don’t need to do much. And what a view!!! It was really exciting to see Little Rock and the river a new and such a great vantage point! And the ride up the ramp, through the trusses, getting closer and closer as I neared the top creates a great experience. I even read that there is supposed to be a sign that lights up at night, welcoming visitors flying into the airport! I don’t need to say much more because the pictures really say it all. I hope you all get to take the time to go visit this great new Little Rock landmark soon! (Sorry for the crappy quality, I couldn’t find my camera when I left the house so I had to take pictures with my phone).