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Little Rock officials announce plans for ‘deck park’ over Interstate 30

A digital rendering shows what a potential deck park over Interstate 30 in downtown Little Rock could look like; currently no solid plans have been approved, though the project has begun the planning stages.
Chris East
A digital rendering shows a potential deck park over Interstate 30 in downtown Little Rock. The project is currently in the planning stages.

Parts of downtown Little Rock could become more pedestrian-friendly thanks to a new park project currently in the planning stages.

The city will get $2 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program to develop a new park above a stretch of Interstate 30.

In a news conference Monday at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, at-large City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris said the goal is to have the park be a part of a larger inter-connected system of green spaces in the city.

“We’re going to work our way through it, we’re going to find the sources for it, because we’re not going to let I-30 divide any more of Little Rock,” Kumpuris said. “We’re going to make it where the whole of the city, starting at the [Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts] can move all the way down to Riverfront Park and make it a unified park.”

The idea of covering downtown freeways with so-called ‘deck parks’ has become an increasingly popular option for cities seeking to minimize the divisive effects of vehicular infrastructure. Both the design and the public-private partnership used to construct Klyde Warren Park in Dallas partly served as an inspiration for Little Rock’s proposal. Dallas officials have plans to build another similar park, also over Interstate 30.

USDOT’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, designates $1 billion in spending over five years to help reconnect cities “previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure.” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. credited the Biden Administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for the success of the program so far.

Scott cited the displacement of several historically Black neighborhoods during the construction of Interstate 630 as a reason to mitigate some of the more negative effects of highway construction now.

“That’s where we were able to really bring in both the public and the private sector together to ensure that 30 Crossing would never be I-630. It would never have that footprint of segregation. It would never have that footprint of dissatisfaction from the community sentiment, but to ensure that we focus on how our city continues to unite, grow and transform,” Scott said.

Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the park could also help bring in new economic development projects to the downtown area.

“This is starting to get the attention of people across the United States. We’re currently working with folks looking at this as an opportunity for making even further investment in our community because they see what we as a community are doing to invest in ourselves,” Chesshir said.

The park will sit on top ofInterstate 30 between Sixth and Ninth streets, linking the eastern part of downtown Little Rock and the MacArthur Park area with the Hanger Hill and East Village neighborhoods. The nonprofit Fifty for the Future hired local firm Garver Engineers to help write the grant application.

Planning and design work on the project is underway, and officials say a schedule of public meetings is forthcoming.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.