Pulaski County pavilion at north end of Big Dam Bridge dedicated

Joe and Ruth Klingbeil of Little Rock ride their tandem bike after attending the ribbon cutting for the Judy Lansky Pavilion on Wednesday at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Joe and Ruth Klingbeil of Little Rock ride their tandem bike after attending the ribbon cutting for the Judy Lansky Pavilion on Wednesday at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Pulaski County unveiled a new pavilion at the Big Dam Bridge North Plaza dedicated to the late Judy Lansky on Wednesday in Cook's Landing Park.

County Judge Barry Hyde said at the event that the project also honors the late Pat Hays, former mayor of North Little Rock and former county judge Buddy Villines.

"Our partnership to complete this project honors their legacy of collaboration and reminds us that we can achieve more by working together," Judge Hyde said. "Of course, just like Buddy and Pat, we needed the Quorum Court and City Council members to share our vision because bridges, trails and pavilions don't get completed on dreams alone."

He thanked North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick, and the City Council and the county Quorum Court for their support and investment in "meaningful public amenities."

Hyde recognized the immense damage from the 2019 flood along the Arkansas river and the many homes, businesses and trail amenities that were impacted.

"However, in the wake of the devastation, we were presented with an opportunity," he said. "An opportunity to not only rebuild the pavilion, but to make it better and safer and more accommodating to the needs of the visitor into this area."

Hyde said the plaza was redesigned with Lansky in mind and her "leadership, tenacity and spirit" are woven into every inch of it.

The plaza replaced the previous pavilion damaged during the 2019 flood. The project cost $400,000 through a partnership between the county and the city of North Little Rock, a news release from the county stated.

New features of the plaza include benches, a bicycle repair station, a drinking fountain with a bottle filler, and a pavilion named in honor of Lansky.

She was "instrumental" in creating the Big Dam Bridge 100 -- an annual cycling event in Central Arkansas that celebrates the Big Dam Bridge over the Arkansas River, with several routes ranging between 15 and 105 miles. Lansky was a co-founder of the organization, Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas.

She and her husband, Ken Gould were the first co-chairs of the Big Dam Bridge Foundation.

Peggy Muncy, a close friend of Lansky, said she had a "light and energy" within her that was infectious.

"She was a proponent for change and made every minute of her life count for good, particularly change to help people have a better life," Muncy said. "Whether it was protesting at the state Capitol for some cause that was important to her or flying to Washington ... to lobby our senators and representatives on behalf of Bicycle Advocacy for Central Arkansas. Judy was passionate in all that she took on."

She also mentioned that Lansky volunteered with the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, Last Chance Arkansas and Paws for Prison programs.

Muncy highlighted the work it took for Lansky and Gould to organize the first Big Dam Bridge 100 event.

Gould read a letter from Lansky's step-daughter, Jackie, that she wrote shortly after Lansky passed away from cancer.

"Though this challenge was not a winnable one for our team, Judy met every battle with bravery and the grace of a warrior," Gould read. "We're fortunate to have had her love and guidance through the majority of my life. I will keep every memory of her wrapped in my heart like a gift to open every time I think of her."

Mayor Hartwick said he recalled when a tornado hit the city in March, Hays called him and pushed to get the bike trails back open in Burns Park. The city's Parks and Recreation team did their best to do so and laid new sidewalk for the trails, Hartwick said.

"I don't bike but I'm a golfer, which you guys, you ladies, are unbelievable," he said. "I cannot say enough about the fitness."

Hartwick added that his partnership with the county started when he was director of Parks and Recreation in 2019.

"This is what's important to Central Arkansas," he said. "Not only this, you can go down this bike trail and after a few miles I guess you get our pump track. It's my intention as the mayor of the city of North Little Rock to not only do more things, but I'd like to have a mountain biking branch of the trail."

Hartwick noted that the trails provide bicyclists a sense of community and they don't have to travel to Northwest Arkansas to find better ones.

Karen Trevino, president of North Little Rock Tourism, said that overall, tourism generates $96.8 million in state taxes and just over $44 million in local taxes.

Steve Shepherd, a local cyclist, said that anything promoting outdoor activity -- cycling, walking or running -- is great.

"This just adds to the attraction," he said. "It's a great meeting place. It's a good place to come kick off rides because we can go in both directions here. The water, especially during the summer, having the water fountain here is great."

Shepherd said his average bike ride is 30 to 40 miles and he has been biking for over 50 years.

James Britt, president of Bicycle Advocacy for Central Arkansas, said that Lansky would appreciate all the amenities the new pavilion provides.

"It's a good place to rest and just catch your thoughts or think about how great the trail is here for everybody," he said. "I get calls from people coming to visit Little Rock on business and I say, 'Ride the river trail.'"

On Sundays the group bikes about 35 miles and uses the trail exclusively, stopping for coffee along the way to help local businesses. Newer members who are building up mileage can take short cuts or breaks together, Britt added.

Mike Knabe, a biker in the group, said he has "never had a bad ride" or become bored with the scenery around the river trails.

Carl Scott, another biker in the group, said he went biking in Michigan over the summer and met a couple wearing their Big Dam Bridge 100 tour shirts from 2021. He happened to be wearing his as well.

"The work that people like Judy put in to build this dream out, there's so many people that she never met. I've never met her, and she's touched my life," Scott said.

  photo  New signage marks the routes for pedestrians and cyclists by the new Judy Lansky Pavilion on Wednesday at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

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