MDN: Residents Embracing Big River Crossing
The Big River Crossing across the Mississippi River opened Saturday, Oct. 22, with a whistle blast from a restored Union Pacific railroad steam engine and delegations from each side of the pedestrian and bicycle boardwalk — Memphis and West Memphis – meeting in the middle.
The crossing was to open to the public at 1 p.m. Saturday but opened ahead of schedule.
The $17.5 million project itself was completed two weeks ahead of scheduled and $1.5 million under budget, according to project manager Paul Morris.
The Memphis delegation met at the Church of the River before cutting the ribbon on the Memphis side and making the walk to the middle. The West Memphis delegation met in a tent in the plaza area by the Arkansas end of the crossing where there is a landing for such activities.
Hutchinson and Strickland each talked about the economic impact of the crossing which is expected to be a destination for bicyclers to the region.
Memphis commodities firm founder Charles McVean, whose influence and dogged push for the project is credited for the Big River Crossing getting built, termed the crossing and the trail system a “Great Wall of Memphis” — the equivalent in its importance to the Great Wall of China.
McVean touted a “vast linear park running through the heart of the country” that will connect to the crossing and the levee trails on the Arkansas side.
From the West Memphis side of the crossing, travelers can bicycle 71 miles of levee trails in eastern Arkansas.
Next month work begins on a five-mile trail loop onto the flood plain between the West Memphis levee and the Mississippi River. The trail loop will take hikers and bikers onto farm fields as well as Dacus Lake for views of the Memphis skyline and a look around the original site of the settlement of Hopefield, that preceded the city of West Memphis.
The Union Pacific steam locomotive drew a large crowd of train buffs and aficionados who came just to see the restored locomotive that Union Pacific officials sent to Memphis specifically for the Big River Crossing opening. Others came to be among the first to bike or walk the crossing. Still others drifted over from the RiverArtsFest in South Main, the St. Jude bike-a-thon in Tom Lee Park and a Downtown run.