Thursday, June 20, 2013

BACA Forms Facebook Page to "Close the Loop"; Gene Pfeifer Rattling The Bars

I've been on vacation and have a backlog of news and half-written articles, but I've been trumped by the mainstream press and must post this quickie!

BACA Facebook Page: Close the Loop on the Arkansas River Trail

At the most recent BACA board meeting, it was decided that BACA would focus its efforts on getting the Arkansas River Trail completed near the Dillard's HQ on Cantrell Road. Part of the initiative was to create a Facebook page to help create some political pressure as came about following NLR's ill-fated plan to sell the Big Rock Quarry.
The Facebook page has gathered over 700 'likes". Get on over and "like" it, yourself!

Gene Pfeifer Calls On Dillard's To Embrace River Trail Plan
From the Arkansas Times:

Gene Pfeifer, the bike enthusiast and developer who donated land he owned on the north side of the Arkansas River to the Arkansas River Trail, has asked the Dillard family follow suit for the good of the community.
Dillard's headquarters backs up the Arkansas River on the south side. The company has so far turned down requests by the city of Little Rock for access to build a trail on the property that would connect the downtown portion of the trial with Riverfront Drive. (Because of development and private property, the Little Rock portion of the River Trail is not the smooth, unimpeded path that it is on the north side.)
The city has drawn up plans to build a bridge-like trail on the bluff below the Dillard's property, but it would be a hugely expensive undertaking — as much as $12 million — requiring a build-as-you go engineering strategy rather than ground-up construction.
Pfeifer's letter to Bill Dillard II opens:

Please allow the Arkansas River Trail to be completed along your headquarters property and contribute to economic development, enhanced tourism and the quality of life in your home town. Linda and I were privileged to be able to donate 1 ¼ miles for the trail in North Little Rock and not a day goes by that we aren’t richly rewarded thereby. The trail provides recreation, fitness, quality of life, and helps fight obesity. Being on the trail occasionally and seeing how it provides our community with a sense of “place” is joyous for us. Please donate the easement and reap this marvelous reward.

In case his appeal to the company to do something for the good of the community, Pfeifer includes another tack: Appeal to the pocketbook. He suggests that Dillard's could use the trail to enhance sales by creating a private label, "Dillard's Trail," for use on fitness attire and camping items, etc. Here's the full letter.

Follow the link above to read Gene's very thoughtful letter. I hear a lot of second and third hand opinions of the real reason for lack of action on the River Bluffs or "Dillard's Trail" section. Most recently, I've heard there is little resistance from Dillard's, but
that Mayor Stodola is hesitant to pull the trigger on the money, though he has semi-publicly stated (at various meetings and through intermediaries) that the city could produce the dollars, while pointing to Dillard's position as a hold-up. In fairness, the city continues to seek transportation grants for the project, which is prudent when spending local taxpayer dollars.
My hope is that Gene's letter and its publication in the Arkansas Times will get a response from the Mr. Dillard and allow the conversation and the project to move along. If Dillard says "no", then the public can let him know how they feel about corporate citizenship. If the response is positive, then pressure will be great on Mayor Stodola to stop the slow dance and act. The River Trail is already an asset for community health, recreation, and transportation, and is a draw for educated, employable young people who might consider a move to Central Arkansas.
The Dillard's section would be an absolute jewel and a regional draw. Take a look at this video from Metroplan and you'll agree:

After The Walton Foundation contributed ~$25M to  NW Ark greenway development, I suggested that they might adopt this River Trail section. It would create all sorts of good will, but I don't think the Dillard family would appreciate having the "Walton Trail" in their backyard.

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