Pulaski County's Le Petit Pont is the footbridge that links the southern end of the Junction Bridge with Ottenheimer Plaza behind the Little Rock River Market and La Petite Roche Plaza, the artistic setting of "The Little Rock" for which the city is named.
Built just in time for Riverfest 2009, the little bridge was described at the time as 72 feet long and 14 feet wide. Its prefabricated span weighed 38,000 pounds and was lowered into place by a crane. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photographer who documented its placement wrote that the city was not calling the bridge Le Petit Pont but rather "Riverfest Bridge."
In her May 24, 2009, profile in the High Profile section, then-Riverfest volunteer chairwoman Ashley Parker remarked that the Riverfest board had pledged $100,000 to the creation of that little bridge — "the Riverfest Bridge, to connect you from the amphitheater to the Junction Bridge, where you can look down and see the Little Rock," she said.
A decade later, "I never heard that, that's funny," says Mary Beth Bowman, of the Pulaski County Facilities Board, which oversees the Junction Bridge.
Bowman says she tends to think of the walkway as part of the Junction Bridge and so was amused Wednesday to see its identifying plaque. Bowman phoned Barbara Richard, who was county road and bridge director in 2009, to ask about it. Richard told her they called it "the little bridge" because it is a little bridge leading to a larger bridge.
And they used French in keeping with La Petite Roche.
Arkansans who make tourism brochures have struggled with the masculine and feminine forms of the indefinite article "the" with regard to objects in the River Market area. Some say "Le Petit Roche" and others say "La Petite Roche." According to dictionaries, roche is feminine. As a feminine noun, it takes the feminine article la and the feminine form of the adjective, petite.
Oddly enough, the French word for boulder — rocher — is masculine: le rocher. The Central Arkansas Library System Encyclopedia of Arkansas says "le Petit Rocher" appears on the earliest known map that labels The Little Rock, in 1799.
Various sources suggest that French explorer Benard de la Harpe wrote the ungrammatical "le petite roche" or "la petit roche" in reference to the landing we call The Little Rock. But according to two essays in the encyclopedia, he did not. He did not name The Little Rock. Other, unnamed Frenchmen named it.
He did describe the bluff we call Big Rock, on the north shore, and he called it "Le Rocher Français" — roughly, Big French Rock. He claimed it by carving his coat of arms on a tree.
"Le Petit Pont" does not appear in marketing materials that describe the Junction Bridge. To Google "Le Petit Pont" is to learn about the famous arch in Paris above the River Seine.
Style on 09/02/2019
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