LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Interstate 30 is normally filled with cars and trucks but soon, a portion could be filled with trees and benches.
Kathy Wells is the President of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods. She started a letter-writing campaign to get support for a deck park project on I-30. The hope is to get the federal government to give Little Rock and ARDOT a grant to make it happen.
“This is a very worthy project,” Wells said. “It is going to become an important mosaic of the city’s parks.”
The park would include the sections between 6th and 9th Streets. There are initial renderings of what the park may look like, but it is too early to know the features of the park. The City of Little Rock will finalize a plan before the next steps are taken.
“We will work with the city on the available green space,” said ARDOT spokesperson Dave Parker. “They will submit their plan to us first. That’s the next step.”
Advocates for the park noted the initial I-30 construction’s impact on the city.
“Historically, the destruction that highway construction caused was often the impetus for communities to enact historic preservation regulations,” said Patricia Blick, the Executive Director for the Quapaw Quarter Association. “The National Historic Preservation Act was passed in 1966 and had lots of local support throughout the country since communities were reacting to the loss of historic buildings and neighborhoods as a result of highway construction and urban renewal efforts.”
The split between the MacArthur Park and Hanger Hill neighborhoods provides a stark example of what the interstate’s impact has been, Wells said.
“It was immediately evident to me what a terrible gulf this ditch created,” Wells said.
ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor said I-30 expansion is a transportation and economic benefit for the area. She said the park project could help correct past mistakes.
“We’re creating green spaces,” Tudor said. “We’ve been working really hard to overcome some of the things the original interstate may have caused as far as separating the community.”
Wells and others said the park represents more than just trees and sitting areas.
“It’ll bring back new life,” Wells said. “It’ll bring back new business enterprise. It’ll bring back folks to purchase their vacant houses and build on their vacant lots.”
The process will likely take multiple years.