Big River Crossing drew nearly 250,000 in first year, promoters say

October 18th, 2017

Commercial Appeal | Tom Charlier

Since its opening on a sunny Saturday almost exactly a year ago, the Big River Crossing has welcomed nearly 250,000 visitors who enjoyed after-work jogs, weekend bicycle rides and leisurely strolls on the boardwalk over the Mississippi River.

In advance of first-anniversary events planned for this weekend, promoters of the $18 million project released figures showing that 247,596 users had been counted on the mile-long boardwalk built on the north side of the Harahan Bridge, a 101-year-old rail span.

Eighty-five percent were pedestrians, according to figures provided by groups overseeing the project, with the remaining 15 percent bicyclists. The most popular weekday time for users was 5:30 p.m., while 2:30 p.m. was the busiest time on weekends. Monthly visitation peaked at more than 35,000 last November and hovered in the 20,000-25,000 range from June through September.

“The proven success of Big River Crossing represents a catalyst for the continued advancement of our riverfront—'ours' being both Memphis’ and Arkansas’,” Dow McVean, a project official with the Big River Strategic Initiative, said in a prepared statement. The Big River group is a limited liability corporation overseeing the boardwalk and other projects.

Built on one of two cantilevered decks that for decades accommodated "carriageways" carrying cars and trucks over the river, the 10-foot-wide boardwalk is the nation’s longest active bike-pedestrian rail bridge and the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi.

More than 100,000 light-emitting diode (LED) lights bracketing the structure allow for multicolored displays commemorating holidays and special events.

It was constructed using a mix of government and private funds, with the largest chunk of money coming from a federal grant for the Main to Main Intermodal Connector, a $40 million initiative connecting the downtowns of Memphis and West Memphis.

In observance of the anniversary of the opening last Oct. 22, the project will host the Big River Crossing Half Marathon + 5K on Saturday, with proceeds benefiting the Peer Power Foundation. On Saturday and Sunday, the bridge also will transmit dynamic light shows to mark the anniversary.

The boardwalk turns a year old as another trail connecting to it on the Arkansas side of the river nears completion. The 6-mile bike-pedestrian trail is the first phase of what will be Delta Regional River Park. The path winds through farm land along the banks of the Mississippi, providing expansive views of Downtown Memphis on the other side of the river.

Although the parking lot hasn't been paved and a small section under a bridge remains incomplete, the trail will be essentially complete this weekend, said Terry Eastin, executive director of the Big River Strategic Initiative. "It's really a great new trail addition for Crittenden County and West Memphis," Eastin said. 

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I must always work harder than others.

Kylea Spradley

I am currently a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Memphis. I also work as a success coach for Peer Power at East High School and I absolutely adore my job. The satisfaction from helping and encouraging young scholars is an overwhelmingly positive feeling that fills me with determination to constantly do better not only in my educational life, but in my personal life too. I take great pride walking into East High School knowing that I am not only a resource for the students, but also a mentor. I am that friend to talk to when something is going on, or even the outside opinion on a situation that shines the light onto a new viewpoint.

Peer Power to me is helping motivate students to graduate on time, and with dignity. Peer Power to me means inspiring that scholar to take the ACT again and raise their score, even if it is just by one more point. That one point can be the difference of a 2,000-dollar scholarship for college. Peer Power to me is getting the students excited for the endless possibilities past graduation, whether it be college or joining the work force. Peer Power to me is igniting the fire of determination and motivation under every student, and to welcome them into our world, post high school, with arms wide open, as that shoulder to lean on, as that support system when they need it.

Another reason why I love Peer Power so very much, is that it helps me to revisit old topics that I may have forgotten about when I was in high school. In turn, it benefits me in my college classes. As a biomedical engineering student, I take a ton of math classes. As a math success coach at East High, I get a refresh on topics that I haven’t seen in a long while, And if I am able to explain a topic, such as proofs in Geometry or absolute value functions in Algebra 2, to a student who may or may not have seen said topic before and for the students to understand it even just a little better, then I know that I fully understand the topic myself.

The relationships I have built during my time as a success coach at East High School are ones I will remember forever. Whether it be with my team leads, my teacher, students, and even other success coaches, the entirety of it all feels like a second family. I know that I have a support system at Peer Power, one that will always be there to pick me up when I am down, to congratulate me when I succeed, and one I can reply on in the future of my academic career.