Tuesday, December 29, 2015

River Trail Flooding-Here we go again!

I case you have not had any media exposure in the last several days, here is your notice that much of the Arkansas River Trail in central Arkansas will not be passable for the next week or so due to flooding.
Soaked ground, already high flows, and some remarkable rainfall totals have pushed the river to levels exceeding those that we experienced last summer.

We ain't seen nothing, yet....
The impending river levels will far exceed those we witnessed last summer.

The most recent flood crest of the river was at 22.89 ft on 06/03/2015. The current forecast call for  a crest 26'. Last summer's event was considered an "action" level, below even "minor" flooding, while 26' is considered a "moderate" event, approaching major flooding. 

Arkansas River levels this week and those in June will easily make the National Weather Service top-10 Historic Crests list:

Historic Crests
(1) 34.60 ft on 06/01/1933
(2) 33.00 ft on 04/20/1927
(3) 30.45 ft on 04/21/1945
(4) 27.90 ft on 05/31/1957
(5) 27.70 ft on 05/08/1990
(6) 26.22 ft on 04/24/1973
(7) 25.00 ft on 12/04/1982
(8) 24.81 ft on 11/27/1973
(9) 24.12 ft on 05/05/1944
(10) 23.30 ft on 10/13/1986

Before the flood.

I'm sure that the folks building the Broadway Bridge have seen more than enough high water as they try to pour footings, set piers, and assemble some structure on barges along the river.

We shouldn't complain

After a long, cool spring stretched into a summer marred by crazy rain and trail flooding, fall and early winter have been perfect for riding, with October-like temperatures stretching into December and October seeing August-like heat, including a record high of 98 on October 15.

'tis the season. Christmas Eve was marked by temperatures in the 70's. Short pants were prevalent on the BDB. 

The weather seems to have finally caught up with the calendar, though a few days too late for many outdoor retailers for whom cold weather means brisk sales of fleece, down and flannel (our friends at Ozark Outdoor Supply are having a big sale on winter goods, by the way. Go by and spend your Christmas money.). 

Clean up-again. Alternative Service Opportunity.

I'm certain that when the floodwaters recede, the call will once again go out for volunteers to help clean up the River Trail. This time, you can help by either getting out your shovel and rake or by reaching for your checkbook or credit card.

The shoveling is damn hard work, and, while a cold snap might discourage the swarms of gnats that plagued us last summer along the trail, the credit card route is guaranteed to create fewer lower back ailments and no bug bites at all.

Rob Stephens and the Arkansas River Trail Task Force had already embarked on a campaign to help NLR Parks acquire a trail sweeping machine. You can follow the link below to learn more and to make your tax-deductible donation:

The first fund-raising goal is to provide funds for North Little Rock Parks and Recreation to purchase a trail sweeper, similar to the photo shown here. This will enable quicker trail cleanup after flooding. The approximate cost is $18,000.
ooooohhh, ahhhhhh. Very Nice!

As any of us who helped tackle the clean-up last summer will attest, the sediment that get deposited by river flooding starts out as a sticky, gumbo-like mud, which then dries into densely packed fine sand. The usual practice is to use a blade to push most of the sediment off of the trail, followed by sweepers and then blowers. That creates berms piled on either side of the trail which affect drainage and often result in the material washing right back onto the trail. The new sweeper will allow the sand to be moved off of the trail. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Along The Trail- The Hoga, Bike Boy, Broadway Bridge and Grants

The past couple of weekends have produced some absolute perfection for cycling in central Arkansas. Mild temperatures, clear skies, and light winds made for the kind of days that we yearn for in December, so where was everybody??  I'm sure that the allure of the shopping centers and malls kept some people under a  roof, but I don't think I know any of those folks. 

I decided on a recent Saturday to take a bit of a tour around town. As always, I found some interesting developments along the away.

The Hoga (YT-146) is here. Finally.

The heroic Hoga has a new home. 

 After 10 years of haggling, maneuvering, transporting, starting and stopping, the WWII era  harbor tug came into port at the North Little Rock Maritime Museum last week, in plenty of time for Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies. The project to bring the Hoga here was a mission of former Mayor Pat Hays and, though I had doubts about the value of the project, I will admit that the account of action aboard The Hoga during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor makes me believe that the old girl deserves to rest in a place of honor. While the Arkansas River may seem like an unlikely spot, it is far better than a scuttling or the scrap yard.

Where has the Bike Boy gone?
I have a fondness for the Bike Boy statute sited near the north foot of the Clinton Park Bridge. I noticed the the boy was not present on recent rides so I made in inquiry of alderman Debi Ross. Debi made a quick inquiry and discovered that the work had been moved to accommodate some recent work by the North Little Rock Street Department. It is safely in storage and will be restored to its rightful place.
The Bike Boy statue shown behind former mayor Pat Hays is safe and sound.

What heck is falsework?

I've stumbled all over reporting about the jungle of yellow painted steel that is being staged on the riverbank adjacent to the Clinton Park Bridge. I won't review my various incorrect assumptions and blathering thereof, but will proceed to report what I currently believe to be correct.

The structures make up the falsework to be used in construction of the Broadway Bridge.
From Wikipedia:
Falsework consists of temporary structures used in construction to support spanning or arched structures in order to hold the component in place until its construction is sufficiently advanced to support itself.

Construction scenes, particularly bridge construction, can make for some striking images. 

Much bridge construction requires that work be done with cranes on barges

An engineering feat is set to unfold.

I had an opportunity to speak to John Ruddell of Garver Engineers, and their project manager for the Broadway Bridge. I asked John how the falsework was going to be deployed. In a discussion several months ago with Cooper Khyl of Massman Construction, I had been told that much of the construction would take place on barges lined up between the Main Street and Broadway Bridges. John was able to add some detail. 
We haven't seen anything, yet!

Most folks have seen the many barges lined up along the river at present. That array will be expanded. The falsework will be assembled on the barges and the structure will be built over it. John had been told that the maximum height of the bridge's baskethandle arches and towers arches would rise 170-feet above the river. I found that to be incredibly exciting as I compared it to the heights of downtown buildings,. When the spans have been assembled, tugs will move the barges into position so that the structures are in place over their respective piers. The barges will then be flooded to lower them into place. This is going to be an amazing process, and I hope to be on hand when the moves takes place. 

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has historically turned back federal dollars that are designated for alternative transportation. 
This appears to be changing. This from the AHTD:

INFORMATION RELEASE  AHTD (98)color 10''.jpg

Office of the Director

P. O. Box 2261 – Little Rock, Arkansas                             ArkansasHighways.com
Telephone (501) 569-2227                                                         Twitter: @AHTD

Contact:                                                                                                                       NR 15-406
Danny Straessle/Krista Sides                                                               December 4, 2015

Arkansas State Highway Commission Approves
Funding for Local Federal-aid Projects

STATEWIDE (12-4) – The Arkansas State Highway Commission has approved more than $20 million in funding to applicants for Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, and Recreational Trails Program (RTP) projects in Arkansas.

The TAP is a Federal-aid program established in 2013 that allows eligible sponsors to apply for funding to construct sidewalks and trails for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized forms of transportation, create systems that will provide safe routes for non-drivers (children, older adults and individuals with disabilities) or other similar activities.  This year, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) received 93 applications requesting more than $21 million. Seventy-one projects were selected to receive approximately $16 million in available funding.

The SRTS Program was established in 2005 and is used to enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. These projects can include construction of infrastructure to improve the safety for pedestrians in the vicinity of schools or non-construction activities such as public awareness campaigns, traffic education, outreach programs and student bicycle safety training.  This year, the AHTD received 39 applications requesting more than $6 million. Eight projects were selected to receive approximately $1.2 million in available funding.

The RTP is a very competitive Federal-aid program established in 1993 allowing cities, counties, state or federal government agencies, and non-profit groups to apply for funding for the construction or maintenance of recreational trails or trail facilities throughout the state.  This year, the AHTD received 48 applications requesting almost $9 million.  Twenty-eight projects were selected to receive approximately $3.2 million in available funding.

The AHTD will work with the successful applicants to develop their projects and see them through to completion.  See attached lists detailing the projects selected for funding.


Funding Program
Number of Projects
Total Awarded

Transportation Alternatives Program
$ 15,970,981

Safe Routes to School Program
$ 1,207,262

Recreational Trails Program
$ 3,186,694
All Programs Total
$ 20,364,937

The City of Little Rock received grants to fund 3 projects, Riverdale, MacPark, and the Safe Routes to School - Dunbar. Pulaski County was awarded a grant for improvements on Pinnacle valley Road, though how that will be deployed is as of yet unclear.
Bauxite received $500,000 to begin preservation of  the Old River Bridge s part of the Saline Crossing Park and Recreation Area. The bridge will be a key river crossing for the developing Southwest Trail project.

North Little Rock received funding for phase 3 of the Levy Spur Trail.

In spite of noise-making by some conservative congressmen, the recent national transportation bill is set to increase funding for trails. Those same congressmen will line up for the ribbon cuttings as projects come to life, but that is politics. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back To Camp Robinson- Epic Trail Quality In Town.

Each fall, I air up the near-flat tires of my Niner and start learning how to ride my mountain bike once again. Other than a couple of rides in Colorado in June, my fat tire season typically runs from November until March, and is usually limited to those days that are just on damn harsh to enjoy the road. That said, I really enjoy my days riding on dirt, and Camp Robinson is my " go to" choice for local riding. Access is a slight hassle, but it is made worthwhile by the many miles of single track and the fact that it is only 10-15 minutes from my house to wheels-down.
I took a couple of days of the Thanksgiving week vacation to exercise my freshly renewed $25.00* annual sportsman pass and to give our newest mutt Ivy a shot at being a trail dog. Willie is an old pro who consistently paces me for 8-9 miles at a time with occasional forays to remind squirrels that their rightful place is up a tree. Ivy, an athletic whip of a 20-pound Arkansas brown dog, caught on quickly and is remarkably fast and nimble.
I ran into Basil Hicks at the parking lot. Basil is a retired attorney who has spent many years building and improving the trails at Camp Robinson. Since his retirement a couple of years ago, it seems to have taken then place of his full time job, and his efforts are obvious. Basil isn't alone, and his son Basil III, Sharon Saunders, Brian and Melissa Shipman, and others   have spent many hours making Camp Robinson a remarkably complete resource for Central Arkansas mountain bikers.
The CARP trails, as they are known, are located in Camp Robinson's TA(training area)2. The Guard has recently added this shelter at the parking lot. There is also a changing area (the wood structure behind the shelter), along with port-o-potties.

As has been the case on all of my visits in the last couple of years, the trails are in amazing shape. The most frequently used trails have had leaves blown, and many of the areas that suffered from water damage or consistent mud have been hardened, bridged, or rerouted to more suitable terrain.

 Typical trail surfaces at Camp are hard packed and clear, though you can find plenty of more technical, rocky loops if you want to test your skills.

My early days at Camp 8 or 9 years ago were often mud-fests. Though Willie and Ivy still like to cool their paws and drink from the creek crossings, riders can now mostly avoid mud and wet feet while preserving the integrity of the trails.

For many years, much of the trail work was done under the auspices of Central Arkansas recreational Pedalers, or CARP. I won't explore the history of CARP here, but dues collected over the years paid for many of the tools and materials that are still in use at Camp Robinson. More recently, the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance   has brought resources to bear in improving and maintaining the trails. 
You will run across tools and materials caches along the TA2 trails. Keep in mind that all of the trail work done by volunteers.
 The maze of trails at Camp could be baffling to the uninitiated, but over the last few years, signage has been improved and some color-coded loops have been designated to help folks sort out their choices.
If you are new to Camp, or just haven't been in a while, stop and check out the sign board at the entry point. You'll find a lot of information that can make your exploration more rewarding. 

I was pleased to see quite a few weekday riders in the parking lot, but the trails are never crowded, and even on the highest use days the many miles and the diversity of the trail system allows you as much solitude as you could want. 

On my second recent day at Camp, I encountered a group of riders who were gracious enough to wait while I rode ahead to get some photos of them for use in this article. Due to a complete camera fumble, I blew the shots. If any of you are reading this, thanks for trying. 


- TA2 will be closed to riders December 12-14 for a special hunt. These events are usually scheduled a couple of times per year.