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19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 15-18, 2008

Clinton Presidential Library is popular Little Rock landmark

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, designed by architect James Polshek, cantilevers over the Arkansas River, echoing Clinton's famous campaign promise of "building a bridge to the 21st century." See the video of Bill Clinton's introduction to his Presidential Library.

By Zoie Clift

Photo of long curving bridge
Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas

While in Arkansas, a stop at the nation's 13th presidential center is a chance to get your political fix while also visiting a popular landmark of Little Rock. The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum opened in late 2004 and anchors the eastern edge of the Arkansas River Trail.

When converted, the Rock Island Bridge will complete the eastern loop of the paved trail, giving users a route to traverse the Arkansas River from downtown North Little Rock and Little Rock. Renovating the bridge was part of the original vision for the library and officials say completing the project is still a top priority. The Junction Railroad Bridge project is yet another bicycle-pedestrian conversion that will link trails on both sides of the river.

Directly adjacent to the library is the Rock Island Bridge, currently in the design phase of a renovation that will convert it to a pedestrian walkway between the library and the north side of the river as part of an expansion of the Arkansas River Trail system.

Photo of trellis over trail

Medical Mile Trail in downtown Little Rock

Bill Clinton, the youngest ex-president since Theodore Roosevelt, set his sights on a 28 acre parcel of land, transforming the once abandoned warehouse area into a spot now known as Clinton Presidential Center and Park.

Along with the library, the park is also home-base to the Clinton Foundation (Little Rock office) and the Clinton School of Public Service.

If this is your first visit to the state by chance, don't worry because it's hard to miss the library. The sleek architecturally design incorporates a bridge-like steel and glass building perpendicular to the south bank of the Arkansas River. The building was designed by New York-based Polshek Partnership Architects, which also designed the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Photo of woman running on trail

Exhibits in the museum were designed by Ralph Appelbaum and Associates, also of New York, and the team behind the powerful exhibits at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Inside, the library hosts the nation's largest presidential archive as well as replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Rooms. Nearly 85,000 artifacts from the Clinton presidency are housed in the museum and the organizational core is a timeline of Clinton's presidential terms that runs through the middle of the first floor hitting on various domestic and foreign policy subjects along both sides. Personal touches include a 2,000-square-foot-glass-walled penthouse built for President Clinton's private use on the top floor.

Solar panels help conserve energy for the center and other green elements include bamboo flooring and radiant heating and cooling. These energy efficient additions have not gone unnoticed as the center has been designated as one of the most environmentally friendly places to work in the nation by the U.S. Green Buildings Council. It is the first federal building to receive a platinum rating and only 29 other buildings in the world have achieved the title.

Photo of trellis over trail

The Rock Island Bridge in the background will link the library and the north side of the river

South of the library, a restored 1899 brick railroad station houses the Clinton School of Public Service, where visiting lecture series brings in distinguished speakers from around the world. Nearby are the headquarters for Heifer International, a non-profit Little Rock based world hunger organization.

Unlike most presidential library complexes built on small hometown sites, the Clinton library is in an urban setting and a mere 10 minute drive from the airport. It is also within walking distance of the popular River Market District. . If you are interested in visiting, the library is located at 1200 President Clinton Ave. and is open M-Sat. from 9-5 and 1-5 on Sundays.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, designed by architect James Polshek, cantilevers over the Arkansas River, echoing Clinton's famous campaign promise of "building a bridge to the 21st century." See the video of Bill Clinton's introduction to his Presidential Library.

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Quad Cities 2006
Austin 2004
Chattanooga 2010

2006 Awards
2008 Awards

The "Medical Mile" project

Art and Health on the Medical Mile

More photos: Cool Trail Solutions

The "Big Dam Bridge" project

Little Rock's Arkansas River Trail

Arkansas conquers a trails funding crisis

Little Rock Parks & Recreation

The Mississippi River Trail

  Terry Eastin of MRT receives Kodak Greenways Award

Mississippi River Trail proposes NPS Centennial project

Trail of Tears Project in Arkansas

Arkansas Trails page

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Ouachita National Forest

Devil's Den State Park

Arkansas tourism and visitors information

Symposium will celebrate 40th anniversary of National Trails System Act

Fayetteville's trail system is part of its "clean, green way of life"

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