I gathered up some of the public record, but couldn't get a comment from those claiming ownership of the contested land.
Today, in a roundabout fashion, I came into possession of a time line that lays out more information on the property. The key parcel involves 1.77 acres where the bridge lands and hooks up with a park trail. The new bridge ratchets up the value of that land, naturally. The private owner, Moore Broadway LLC, a partnership of local real estate investors, claims roughly an undivided half-interest in the 1.77 acres.
The owners are still not talking to press. But I think I can sum up the crux of their legal argument very simply:
1) When the city condemned property on Sullivans Island in 1976, it failed to serve notice on owners of this particular parcel of land. That means the condemnation was not valid as to them.
2) Government may not "adversely possess" land — even if owners haven't used it for a period of years. It may only acquire it with just compensation. City Attorney Tom Carpenter, however, contends there are Arkansas cases, including one involving a road built in Rose Bud on a church's property, where the Supreme Court upheld a government taking of a land where the putative owners had gone years without asserting a claim.
At the moment, no negotiations are underway. The city, for now, is firm in claiming the property. Whether the private owners plan court action soon — perhaps even an action to block the coming bridge opening — remains unknown. UPDATE: I'm assured by a source close to owners that the issue is strictly ownership and there are no plans to attempt to interfere with opening or use of the bridge. For your added information, the time line:
IMPORTANT EVENTS: EASTERN PORTION OF SULLIVANS (BLACKWOOD) ISLAND
2-9-1901: Equitable Services Co., to Henry W. Bullock — 141.81 Acres - Warranty Deed.
6-1-1920: H. W. Bullock and wife Mary L. to F. L. Cox Co. — Mineral Lease
11-7-1927: H. W. Bullock and wife Lena to W. S. Holt — Mortgage
2-10-1931: H. W. Bullock and wife Lena to W. B. Worthen Co., Deed of Trust (Mortgage).
9-14-1948: Estate of H. W. Bullock, Deceased — Probate 62-21.
6-7-1955: Queen Ann Bullock Miller, Admin. of Estate of H. W. Bullock deceased and all heirs signed by Henry Bullock, Carrie Bullock, Bennie Bullock and Royce Bullock — Mineral Lease. W ½ NE ¼ & W ½ SE ¼ and all Accretions — 80 Acres.
7-24-1974(74-2536): City of Little Rock vs. William E. Sullivan et al — Condemnation Does not include any of the Bullocks or heirs.
10-4-1976: State of Arkansas Supreme Court issues an “Affirmance” in case # 76-84 Sullivan vs. City of Little Rock.
5-16-1988(88-24380): Queen Ann Bullock Miller, unmarried, to Royce Bullock, Jr. and Arch L. Bullock, Senior — Quitclaim Deed.
10-4-1996(96-70072): Fannie M. (Bankhead) Bullock, wife of Royce Bullock, deceased, to Michael D. Wilkins — Quitclaim Deed — 59.67 Acres.
6-5-1996(96-40344): Arch L. Bullock, Sr. and Kansada Bullock, husband and wife to Michael D. Wilkins Quitclaim Deed — 59.67 Acres.
6-5-1996(96-40345): Arch L. Bullock, Sr. and Kansada Bullock, husband and wife to Michael D. Wilkins - Warranty Deed — 59.67 Acres.
1998-1999: Several Deeds and Mortgages from Wilkins to others — final Warranty Deed back to Wilkins was filed in 2008.
1998 and subsequent years — Michael Wilkins and City of Little Rock exchange several letters.
8-30-2004: Commissioner of State Lands to Michael D. Wilkins — Redemption Deed — 1999-2002 Delinquent Property Tax.
10-6-2009 (2009067732): Michael D. Wilkins to Moore Broadway, LLC a 49/100 interest in 42.44 acres in Section 15 and 1.77 acres in adjoining Section 22 both in Township 2 North, Range 13 West. Special Warranty Deed as part of a package of real property containing approximately 159 acres all in Pulaski County.
11-2-2009(2009073833): Moore Broadway to Subterra Investments Pulaski — Minerals - Corrected 2009080864/12-03-2009.
11-3-2009 (2009074201): Commissioner of State Lands to Michael D. Wilkins — Redemption Deed 2005-2008 Delinquent Property Tax.
7-9-2010: John A. Ryles mails a Freedom of Information request of Judge Villines and Mayor Stodola.
7-28-2010: The 7-9-2010 FOI request was sent again.
8-20-2010: Moore Broadway attorney sends a notice to the County Judge, Mayor of Little Rock, the County Attorney and City Attorney concerning the axis of the bridge construction turning from Northwesterly to Northeasterly and landing on private property.
5-2-11: John A. Ryles sends a follow up FOI request to the City of Little Rock requesting any information they may have found after August of 2010.