Thursday, March 8, 2012

Riverfront Memories

The previous blog post talked about a visit inside the Clinton Presidential Library, but that is only a part of the 30 acres making up the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park ( ), located on the banks of the Arkansas River, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The park also is home to the completely renovated train depot, known as Choctaw Station, originally built in 1899. The building now houses the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. This is the first graduate school in the nation to offer a Master of Public Service degree.
It has been estimated that the development of the Clinton Presidential Park has been instrumental in bringing more than 2.5 billion in economic development to the area, including renovations of the nearby historic river market district. This artist seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to be creating paintings of the old railroad bridge, and selling them to one of the hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, that visit the park each year. Considering this area used to be a neglected industrial wasteland, the benefits of the development of the park are visible wherever one looks!
Some of the landscaping between the library and the riverfront has been designed to create natural, grass-covered amphitheaters for visitors to use during the numerous family-friendly festivals held in the park throughout the year.
When one is down at the water level of the wetlands boardwalk area, there are some interesting reflections that can be captured on film or canvas.
The opening of this converted railroad bridge to pedestrians and bicyclists, completes a 17-mile loop between the Big Dam bridge, and the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock. Perhaps one of the cyclists doing training rides across the newly-opened Clinton Pedestrian Bridge will someday be a Tour De France competitor, as well! Although conversion of the former "Rock Island Bridge" was envisioned by Clinton and others from the very beginning, the actual work did not get started until May, 2010. Not surprisingly, construction costs skyrocketed this past decade, making the total cost far exceed the original 4 million dollar estimate. Here is roughly how it was funded: The Clinton Foundation provided $4 million; U.S. Department of Commerce, $2 million; Federal Stimulus money, $2.5 million; city of Little Rock, $1 million, and city of North Little Rock, $3/4 million. Therefore, since the project cost over $10 million----most of it from your tax money---I would recommend you get out there and use it!!
Being on the pedestrian bridge gives you an elevated perspective of the Clinton Library, and enables one to see some of its design features (solar panels, sunshades, "green" roof, etc.) that enabled it to receive a silver LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, for best practices in energy and environmental design. LEED stands for "leadership in energy and environmental design."
Being on top of the bridge also enables one to see the very pleasing-to-the-eye design of the board walk encircling the wetlands area.
This sculpture of a well-known Arkansas hunter/conservationist announces the section called the William Clark Presidential Wetlands area that showcases a restored wetlands habitat for the education and enjoyment of visitors. When I was there last week, a large beautiful swan was enjoying "posing" for those wanting to take its photo as it glided across the large pond.
One part of the board walk has been widened to form an outdoor "classroom" or picnic area, that would provide needed shade during the warmer months of the year.
The left side of this photo shows the outdoor patio of the "Forty-Two" Restaurant (Clinton was the 42nd U.S. President), that sits underneath the main floor of the Clinton Library. The large sidewalk on the right is a part of the 2,000 feet promenade that runs throughout the presidential park.
The mild climate of central Arkansas makes the presidential grounds a great place to walk your dog, on most days of the year. As one would expect, there are plastic bag dispensers strategically located around the park, so that owners can clean up after their pets.
March is known as "the Windy month", and this could definitely be felt when one was on top of the pedestrian bridge out in the middle over the Arkansas River on our visit there last week. There was some concern that the small dog might turn into a "flying kite" if the wind hit it just right!
The reflecting pool in front of the library appears to spill over into the Arkansas River, if you position your camera at just the proper angle!
At the front of the Library, one can jump aboard the free shuttle that runs frequently between the library and the official Museum Store, which is a couple of blocks down President Clinton Avenue (formerly Markham Avenue). There is free parking at the Clinton Library, so this is also a handy way to get down to the River Market, without having to pay downtown parking fees! Speaking of fees, there are several days each year where the admission fees to the Clinton Library are waived. These include: President's Day, 4th of July, President Clinton's birthday (August 13), and the anniversary of the library dedication (November 12).
The museum store carries a variety of Clinton memorabilia, plus crafts from around the world. There are frequent book signings held at the store, as well.
One of the most popular souvenirs of the Clinton Presidential Library is one that you make yourself---from smashing and imprinting a copper penny, with the Clinton design of your choice.
I called this blog entry "Riverfront Memories" because of all this river conjures up in my mind. The Bible verse from Psalm 46:4 says "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God...". My mom used to love to tell the story about how she would every day walk across the Broadway Bridge between Little Rock and North Little Rock, when she was pregnant with my sister, and she and my dad were living in Little Rock, so dad could work in a war-related manufacturing plant there. Reliving that time in her life always seemed to bring a smile to her face, and make her glad. A vivid memory for me is standing on the banks of the river with Fred, when he asked me to marry him. That brings a smile to my face, and makes my heart glad! Now I have a new memory of standing on the riverbank with my son, which brings a smile to my face and makes my heart glad! So get out there, and make YOUR heart glad, with miles of smiles at the Clinton Presidential Park! Tricia
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