More sections of Burns Park reopen after storm damage

Two people take a morning walk on the Arkansas River Trail in North Little Rock’s Burns Park on Wednesday.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Two people take a morning walk on the Arkansas River Trail in North Little Rock’s Burns Park on Wednesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The city of North Little Rock has reopened additional sections of Burns Park.

A March 31 tornado that ripped through parts of Arkansas significantly damaged Burns Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the nation. The City of North Little Rock also used part of Burns Park as the hub for debris removal.

What has opened or partially opened, according to the city's most recent announcement:

Multi-use paved and unpaved trails. The exception is the Green Trail east of the RV Park and south of Arlene Laman Drive, which remain closed. No vehicular traffic is allowed. Motorists and others should follow signs placed in these areas.

Trail parking is allowed at the equestrian parking area on Joe K. Poch Road, just south of Interstate 40.

Access to the soccer complex will open soon.

The River Trail restroom at Victory Lake between the soccer complex and golf course is open.

What remains closed:

Archery range, BMX and RV areas.

Arlene Laman Drive, until early 2024.

Joe K. Poch Road south of Interstate 40.

On March 31, tornadoes struck nine states, from Arkansas and Iowa to as far east as Delaware. The storms killed more than 30 people in seven states, including five in Arkansas.

One tornado hit the Pulaski County cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville. Another hit the eastern Arkansas community of Wynne in Cross County, destroying its high school, according to the National Weather Service, state and local officiald.

In Little Rock, a tornado rated EF3 by the National Weather Service, with winds reaching 165 miles per hour, touched down about two miles west-northwest of the intersection of Interstate 430 and Interstate 630 about 2:22 p.m. It proceeded in a northeastern direction, destroying houses and damaging Little Rock Fire Station No. 9 on N. Shackleford Road before crossing Interstate 430 and hitting the Breckinridge and Colony West shopping centers along Rodney Parham Road.

The tornado damaged buildings along Cantrell Avenue and completely destroyed Reservoir Park, and moved into the Kingwood neighborhood near Cammack Village.

The tornado struck Murray Park before it crossed the Arkansas River and hit Burns Park in North Little Rock before hitting the Amboy and Indian Hills neighborhoods in North Little Rock. One person died in North Little Rock.

At its most powerful, the tornado was 600 yards wide, officials have said.

The storm left half of Sherwood without power before cutting a three-mile path through Jacksonville. The system eventually weakened in Cabot in Lonoke County, disappearing at 2:57 p.m. after having left a track of over 34 miles.

In Wynne, a separate tornado -- also rated EF3-- cut a path through the heart of the northeast Arkansas town, destroying the high school and pulling up the astroturf from the nearby football field, officials have said. First United Methodist Church was destroyed. Several businesses along Wynne's main thoroughfare, including the offices of the Wynne Progress newspaper, and numerous other houses and structures, were destroyed. Four people died in the storm. Wynne has a population of about 8,300 people.

The National Weather Service has said that the tornado, which set down about nine miles southwest of Wynne, was initially an EF2 but intensified. But the tornado intensified as it headed toward Wynne, becoming an EF3. The tornado later crossed the Mississippi River and disappeared in Tennessee, leaving a track of 73 miles. At its most powerful, the tornado was 1,600 yards wide and reached wind speeds of 150 miles per hour.