Something To Chew On
May 20-26, 2019
By Becca Bona
Thoughts from the trail
Time has a way of opening different perspectives … or maybe maturity (aging?) does. Either way, I remember when the Big Dam Bridge opened.
It was 2006 and I was a surly teenager.
I didn’t go to the unveiling then – which was likely an entertaining press event – as I would do now. I didn’t know about former Pulaski Judge Buddy Villines and his crusade to get the thing built. I also had no idea it would be the longest pedestrian bridge built for that purpose in North America … at least, that’s how www.littlerock.com describes it.
What I did know, was the connection I felt to the bridge before it was even finished. My family had moved closer to the Arkansas River not too long before construction began and my Dad and I watched the progress patiently from the Arkansas River Trail.
The uncompleted concrete structure was like an exposed skeleton, with metallic cranes and construction-yellow trucks always nearby in a fury of motion.
“Why do we need a bridge, anyway?” I asked.
“I think it will be a good thing for our city,” Dad said.
I wasn’t so sure.
Nevertheless, Dad and I continued to walk the nearby trail. Slowly, the strange skeleton stretched across the entire river. Some days I would take my prized possession along with me – a point-and-shoot camera that I’d gotten for my thirteenth birthday.
When the cranes and trucks started to subside their fury, and the bridge began to look like a bridge ... I had questions.
“When can we walk across it?”
“Soon, I’m sure.”
We did finally walk across it, on a chilly fall day in 2006. This was my first time above the river and there was something weightless about it.
“How far do you think we’ve walked?” I asked Dad as we made it to the North Little Rock shore, looking across at Little Rock.
“Couldn’t be quite a mile,” he told me.
These days there are markers for that. There are sculptures and lighting and bustling foot and bike traffic even on cold days or rainy ones.
But back then it was like my Dad and I had the thing to ourselves. People hadn’t yet discovered just how fantastic it was to stand on the bridge. To walk from Little Rock to North Little Rock. To conquer the river.
I walked that bridge throughout the rest of my high school career, often my Dad in-tow. When college came I’d find a way to get down there when visiting home.
My Dad texted me last week, asking if I’d like to go on a walk. I told him sure, and I knew we’d end up on the bridge.
“One of the coolest things in the Rock,” he said.
“Yeah, except people know about it now. It’s not just our bridge,” I told him.
I’ve been traversing that bridge for almost fifteen years now. I’ve been over it on foot, by bike, and even once on rollerblades (which is a whole column in and of itself.)
What if we all dreamed a dream and built a bridge? What would your Little Rock look like?