Across the River
Image by Mike Pirnique

From left: Gov. Mike Beebe, Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Department of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez cross the Presidential Park Bridge.

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Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Presidential Park Bridge Dedication
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Bill Clinton speaks at the Presidential Park Bridge Dedication. His wife, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, also attended the event.

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The National Anthem
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Chelsea Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton at the start of the ceremony.

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James Lee Witt and Jim Guy Tucker
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James Lee Witt, FEMA director in the Clinton administration, and Jim Guy Tucker, former Arkansas governor, wave to the event's attendees.

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Chelsea, Hillary and Bill
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Bill and Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, waves to the crowd during the ceremony dedicating the bridge and the wetlands.

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Presidential Park Bridge Dedication
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A crowd of Clinton's friends and former co-workers, along with other spectators and the media, watched the event outside the Clinton Presidential Library.

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Virginia Kelley Drive
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North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays presents Bill Clinton with a street sign bearing the name of Clinton's late mother, Virginia Kelley Drive. The city named a street for Kelley.

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Bill Clinton and Mike Beebe
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Bill Clinton shakes hands with Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

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Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Presidential Park Bridge Dedication II
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Bill Clinton speaks at a ceremony dedicating the Presidential Park Bridge and the Bill Clark Wetlands.

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"This bridge is 110 years old," said President Bill Clinton to a crowd of about 2,000 at the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge and Bill Clark Wetlands Friday (Sept. 30) at Clinton Presidential Park, 1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock. "It connects our past to our present. It connects our reverence for nature to the advancement of civilzation."

Clinton, accompanied by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, his daughter Chelsea and her husband Marc Mezvinsky, was the featured speaker -- and the main attraction --  at the bridge dedication.

Others on the stage erected next to the bridge included Little Rock mayor Mark Stodola, North Little Rock mayor Pat Hays, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, Gov. Mike Beebe, executive director of the Clinton Foundation Stephanie Streett, deputy director of the Clinton Foundation Lena Moore, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and Little Rock Vice Mayor Dean Kumpuris.

Beebe, who lauded Arkansans' excitement about the Clintons' appearance, said, "I think it's nostalgia for a time when leadership brought people together."

Beebe praised the late William E. "Bill" Clark, an avid outdoorsman and general contractor of the Clinton Presidential Center for whom the Presidential Park Wetlands are named. Clark was known for calling everyone Bubba, which caused them to call him Bubba too.

"This is a day to celebrate Bubba and what was important to Bubba," Beebe said. 

Stodola, speaking to Clinton, thanked him for his efforts in transforming the once-desolate area of Little Rock that now boasts the Clinton Presidential Center and the Presidential Park. "You have literally and figuratively changed the landscape of our city," he said.

"This (bridge) is the linchpin of the (Arkansas) River Trail system," said Mayor Hays, a hearty supporter of his city who amused the audience by opening his remarks with, "It's great to be in South North Little Rock once again." 

He delighted in the presence of the Clintons, saying, "Doesn't it feel right that they're all back here? It's sort of like a family reunion."

The Clinton Foundation spent $10.5 million to rebuild the bridge, formerly known as the Rock Island Railroad Bridge, into a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path that allows users to cross the bridge -- the eastern link of the 15-mile Arkansas River Trail -- via a concrete walkway that rises and falls to cross the lift span in the middle.

"Bridges bring things together," Clinton said.

The William E. "Bill" Clark Presidential Park Wetlands are 13 acres along the Arkansas River adjacent to the Clinton Center. It consists of pedestrian trails, an elevated walkway and two bridges offering views of the Arkansas River, the channel stream and habitats. 

The wetlands opened to the public immediately after the ceremony. The bridge was accessible until 2 p.m. Friday, accommodating a rush of bicyclists and joggers. It officially opens at 8 a.m. Sunday (Oct. 2).

Clinton events continue through the weekend in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his decision to run for president.

The Old State House Museum, 300 W. Markham St., Little Rock, will be the site of festivities beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 1) honoring the 20th anniversary of Clinton’s announcement to run for president. 

President Clinton will preside over the activities, which include the screening of a video timeline of his presidential bid and information about the work of the Clinton Foundation. The band Chicago will perform before Clinton's appearance. 

Admission is free. 

Next at the Old State House Museum is Building a Community of Hope That Inspires the World: Behind the Scenes at Clinton's '91 Announcement at noon Monday (Oct. 3). 

On the 20th anniversary of then-Gov. Clinton's 1991 presidential campaign announcement at the Old State House Museum, a panel made up of former White House chief of staff Mack McLarty, Clinton campaign consultant Bev Lindsey and former Arkansas state treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher  will reflect on the beginning of a historic campaign.

Admission is free. Reservations are required. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or calling (501) 683-5239.