Thursday, March 27, 2014

Along The Trail: Bovines, Bathrooms and More

As usual, if you look close enough, you'll see a lot of things happening along the Arkansas River Trail, ranging from the mundane to the remarkable to the simply weird.

Let's get the "weird" out of the way right up front.
I've run across plenty of equestrians on the trail, but this cow sighting was a first for me, though the River Trail crowd is generally very tolerant of alternative lifestyles so the appearance of this couple raised few eyebrows.

Let me go ahead and answer the obvious question: No, we did not plan the matching kits, but they worked out nicely.
I think there was a promo shoot for a running event benefiting disabled veterans, given the presence of a news crew and some runners sporting high tech prosthetics. (Thanks, guys, glad you're home.) That speculation aside, I didn't really delve into why the bovine costumed representatives of Chick-Fil-A were present on the BDB, but I'm usually good for a photo op and the BDB is an equal opportunity venue. I'm not a Chick-Fil-A fan, but have always had an appreciation for the skydiving cow commercials.
Flush Toilet Alert: Pinnacle Mountain State Park Construction
The west parking lot at Pinnacle Park lies at the corner of Highway 300 and Barrett Roads, making it a good restroom and water stop for riders of several popular road routes. For those road riders expecting to find the usual flush toilets, they will find only disappointment and port-a-potties.
Sam's smile says that he didn't really have an urgent need for that restroom.

The old facilities were flooded a couple of years ago, and I would suspect that the event drove the need for a replacement. I don't have a completion date on this project, but I would expect it to take a couple of months. In the meantime, there are water spigots near the pavilions and plenty of port-a-potties.

RT Mud Problem Abated: Drain Cleared At Jimerson Creek

Dating back at least to the construction of the southwest ramp of the BDB, there has been a consistent problem of mud washing across the trail near the Jimerson Creek Bridge.
After a hard rain, this spot was often near impassable due to flows of sticky mud. The ditch and drain on the left have been recently cleared.

The problem appears to have been solved with the clearing of a ditch and an existing storm drain. I had assumed that the problem would have required some engineering, regrading and/or the installation of a drain. Now that I know there was an existing system that simply had not been maintained, I would ask, "What took them so long?", but I'll also add a "thank-you" for getting it done!

 A Few Signs That Spring Is Near
In spite of the persistent cold weather that we have been experiencing, there are some sure signs that the world is indeed tilting toward warmer days.
Here are a few that I've noticed while riding the trail over the last week:

 This crew from the Little Rock Boathouse Club took advantage of a spot of sunshine last weekend.
These turtles were soaking up rays in a slough near the trail in NLR
Not So Cuddly Critter Sighting
 Willa Williams, Complete Communities Coordinator at City of North Little Rock, asked me recently if she could use some of my photos for something she was writing for the League of American Bicyclists. After scanning through my blog for appropriate shots, she commented, "You take a lot of pictures of snakes."
Well, not really a lot of pictures of snakes, but I do like to show off the wildlife and remind folks that nature is not a petting zoo. I will also admit that I find snakes interesting, and the lands along the river create a habitat that is ideal for many species, including some trophy size cottonmouths and copperheads.
 In keeping with that thought, I ran across the biggest water snake I think I have ever seen earlier this week.
I wondered what drove this groggy nonvenomous water snake to leave the den on a cold Monday evening. Perhaps his winter home flooded in recent high water on the river. I guessed his length to be about 5 1/2 feet and he was easily as big around as my wrist.

Snakes along the trail are a common sight in warmer weather and riders should be alert for them, especially in Two Rivers Park. I've also run across skunks and raccoons that appeared to be ill and were walking among trail users in broad daylight. While the most serious wildlife encounters on the trail that I am aware of involved deer/cyclist collisions, it is good policy remain alert and to keep dogs and children on a short leash, literally or figuratively, particularly in areas where water and brush are close to the trail. We are, after all, on their turf.

In Case Of Emergency...

Back in mid-December, I reported on a meeting at Metroplan of emergency responders and other stake holders. Their purpose was to devise a means of precisely locating the site of emergencies along the Arkansas River Trail. The group has been very active and trail users will soon see the result of their efforts.

The problem was that many trail users, when calling 911, simply could not accurately describe their location, much less advise responders the best way to get to them.  Most of the landmarks along the trail don't mean much to the average 911 operator to begin with, and the nature of emergencies can render folks helpless to provide meaningful details.

 As a case in point, I ran across a family in distress on the trail in Two Rivers Park one hot day a couple of years ago. A young girl was having some sort of respiratory event and 911 had been called. As I rode back toward the bridge, I encountered EMTs and helped direct them to the correct point on the trail. The person who called 911 had apparently used the Two Rivers Park Bridge as the point of reference, so the ambulance rushed to the bridge near River Mountain Road and EMT's then had to push a gurney over the bridge and almost a mile to reach the victim. A better location report would have allowed an ambulance to access the trail from County Farm Road and drive to the correct location.  In this case, the victim was OK, but had the problem been a heart attack or other life-threatening event, the delay in the arrival of help could have been tragic.

The plan is now to place location markers at 0.2 mile intervals along the trail. Each of the markers will be coded with precise location information, and the format will be uniform throughout the River Trail system.
These markers will be glued at the edge of paved trails every 0.2 miles. They are 4-5" in diameter and lie flat. They are expected to last at least 5 years and are easy and inexpensive to replace if damaged.
When an emergency call is received from the River Trail, the caller will be asked to find a marker and read off the location data. Responders can then determine the best approach and can dispatch appropriate equipment to reach the scene. The same markers will be used and mountain bike and hiking trailheads.
I am very impressed at the level of cooperation demonstrated by the folks involved in developing this plan. Participants included representatives of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, North Little Rock Parks and Rec, MEMS, North Little Rock 911 Center, Conway Police Department, Maumelle Fire Department, and the Little Rock Fire Department. None of us plans to be a victim, but it is good to know that help can find us when we need it.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you recognize that all waterside snakes you see are not poisonous.

JBar said...

Hey, I grew up bringing home snakes, which was a bit of a challenge to my patient mother. She woke me up one morning to pick up a snake off of the kithen floor and my first response was "That's not my snake". After wiping the sleep from my eyes, I recognized Elliot, the mud snake, who had escaped from my snake box.
No snake hater, here!