September 2, 2016

Third year’s a charm for cycling event

Mid-South cyclists who are itching to ride the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River don’t have to wait for the Big River Crossing to open. Thanks to the Arkansas Delta Flatlander, riders of both road and fat tire bikes will get the chance two weeks before the grand opening of the Harahan Bridge boardwalk.

The Third Annual Arkansas Delta Flatlander is set for the morning of Saturday, Oct. 8 in West Memphis. A second ride added in year two, the St. Francis Levee Gravel Grinder, takes place that afternoon. West Memphis tourism director Jim Jackson says the event has helped build anticipation of the outdoor recreation opportunities Mid-Southerners will have once the Big River Crossing is open.

“It’s no secret we were trying to be ahead of the curve on this,” Jackson said “We started this event to help answer the question of what folks would do when they rolled off the Harahan and into West Memphis. The riders who participated in the first two know the potential over here. And we’re confident that they are spreading the word.”

The Flatlander is a metric century ride (100 kilometers or 62 miles) that will start in the morning at the trailhead for the new Big River Trail, a 2.6-mile trail that leads to the Harahan approach. It will follow the path of the Mississippi River south, circling Horseshoe Lake before heading back north to the start. Twenty and 40-mile routes will be available, as well.

The Gravel Grinder is a 21-mile ride north on the St. Francis Levee through the proposed Delta Regional River Park. The rough terrain of the ride, which will take place in the afternoon, is meant for off-road bikes. Both rides start at the trailhead of the Big River Trail. Food, beverages and music will be available across the street at Pancho’s, after both rides.

At just over a mile in length, the Big River Crossing will be the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. It serves as the centerpiece of the multi-million-dollar Main to Main Intermodal Connector Project linking downtown Memphis with West Memphis. The Main to Main project also includes Big River Trail on the Arkansas side.

A portion of the Flatlander route overlaps the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways and pedestrian and bicycle pathways stretching from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Serious distance cyclists will have the option of crossing the bridge and continuing onto the MRT as soon as the Big River Crossing is fully open.

Less ambitious riders, walkers and runners looking for more on the Arkansas will have to wait for the planned Delta Regional River Park, which will be established on what is now low-lying farm land between the Harahan and Hernando DeSoto bridges. Plans include a 6.7-mile trail loop that will be built for bicycles and pedestrians. Construction on the trail is expected to begin in November of this year.

This year, Jackson’s office will work with P.R. Event Management, LLC to manage the ride. PREM was founded in 2015 by principal owners Wyndell Robertson and Pam Routh, a husband-wife team with 30 years experience in managing sports events. PREM produces fun and safe sporting experiences including cycling and adventure racing, 5Ks, half marathons, triathlons and duathlons.

“With a successful and proven track record, PREM managed events bring high recognition results which draw awareness, exposure and support for all the community and non-profit organizations with whom they partner,” Jackson said. “We think their expertise is going to do nothing but enhance the Flatlander event.

“West Memphis is going to be an outdoor recreation destination. The Flatlander is a preview of what’s coming,” he continued, “and we’re proud and grateful to be part of it.”

Learn more and register at arkansasdeltaflatlander.com.