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Big Dam weekend

The long-awaited pedestrian bridge opens linking two cities and drawing tourists.

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WE'VE COME TO IT: Time to cross the bridge.
  • WE'VE COME TO IT: Time to cross the bridge.

The world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge, the Big Dam Bridge linking Little Rock and North Little Rock over the Murray Lock and Dam near Interstate 430, will be dedicated this weekend with parties, a 5K fun run/walk and what has turned into the largest bike ride in the history of the state.

Registration has closed for the Big Dam Bridge 100 Bike Ride with 1,000 registrants. People from 13 states have registered to ride. The previous largest bike ride in Arkansas drew approximately 320 riders. Officials had expected half the number of entrants.

The bridge opening celebration begins with the Judge’s Cup Golf Tournament at Rebsamen Park Golf Course on Thursday, with 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. tee times.

The Big John Miller Band will entertain from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock at the Big Dam Bridge Sunset Reception, with hors d’oeuvres, champagne, and wine and beer. Tickets are $75 the proceeds go to the Friends of Two Rivers Park, supporting the Arkansas River Trail and the bridge. Free parking and continuous shuttle service will be offered from Wild River Country on Crystal Hill Road, off I-430, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (no parking is available at Cook’s Landing).

The free parking and shuttle service at Wild River Country is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday to ferry folks to a variety of events, starting with the official ribbon cutting ceremony, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Cook’s Landing. Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Gov. Mike Huckabee will lead the delegation of dignitaries, and Miss Arkansas will sing “Arkansas You Run Deep in Me.” As the official “first riders,” Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey and North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays will ride across the bridge followed by members of the Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas and other cycling groups.

The Big Dam Bridge 5K Fun Run/Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. At the conclusion of the walk, the bridge will be open to the public. The event site will be open all day with food and drink vendors.

A Big Dam Bridge 100 pasta dinner picnic is scheduled at Murray Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $7; bring a lawn chair or blanket.

The 100-mile bike ride begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by riders in the 50, 20 and 12-mile rides. The free shuttle from Wild River Country will run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The race course will close at 4 p.m.

Another family event scheduled around the opening is the Health Fair Expo at Cook’s Landing and the bridge site from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, with vendors selling food, drinks and sweets.

The 100-mile route will carry bikers from Burns Park in North Little Rock over the bridge and through Central Arkansas and the Arkansas River Valley. Saturday’s 5K will take runners from the bridge to Murray Park and back across the bridge to a finish line at Cook’s landing.

The bridge was more than eight years in the making and cost an estimated $12.5 million to build, with $8 million coming from the federal government and $4 million from county funds. “The bridge is going to literally cater to serious bikers, walkers and runners. I think you’ll find the Big Dam Bridge 100 has the potential to grow into a nationally recognized event,” said Joe David Rice, tourism director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

The bridge comprises 3,463 linear feet elevated 65 feet above the navigation channel, and it connects 17 miles of riverside trails in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

For more information, visit the www.bigdambridge.com website.


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