Case Study

Human Health

Little Rock Combats Chronic Diseases Through “Medical Mile Trail”


Schematic of the Bankside Urban Forest in London.

Credit: Aitoa Arkkitehtuuria

Little Rock designed outdoor green space to promote healthy lifestyles and combat chronic diseases.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Humid subtropic


White: 48.9% Black: 42.3% Hispanic: 2.7% Native American: 0.3% Asian: 1.7% Pacific Islander: 0.03% Other: 2.56%

In 2003, the Parks and Recreation Department of Little Rock, Arkansas wanted to encourage people to get outside into a natural setting and promote healthy lifestyle choices. As part of the Arkansas River Trail system that runs for over eighty miles, the Medical Mile trail is health inspired and promoted by the medical community. It includes playgrounds, spraygrounds, sculptures, picnicking areas and a mural wall with a message to inspire fitness and nutrition.

After two years of fundraising and getting support from the Heart Clinic of Arkansas, the state’s largest cardiac clinic, the trail was completed and became the nation’s first linear health museum. The goal of the project was to unite the benefits of urban greenery and decrease preventable chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.

Being in a natural setting is scientifically proven to encourage people to become active and stay healthy. The Medical Mile does that and more. It also uses interpretative signage and artwork to send a message to the public about getting active. Features of the trail include art displays from local artists, benches to rest and enjoy the natural beauty and a grand entry plaza with young and mature trees adjourning the walkways.

The trail is a massive success story with over two million visitors annually and designed for people of all backgrounds, ages and physical ability. During all hours of the day people are out walking, running, bicycling and roller blading. Some use the trail to just take a break from the busy urban life and find refuge under the shade of a honey lotus.

  • Little Rock Parks and Recreation successfully engaged the medical community for assistance with fundraising. Two-dozen physicians from the state’s largest cardiac clinic (Heart Clinic Arkansas) agreed to support the trail by fundraising $350,000 over a two-year period. This goal was quickly met and the project’s scope and budget was increased to $2.1 million, a goal that was also met.
  • Funding sources included local hospitals, coalitions, the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Parks and Tourism, Pulaski County, numerous individual physicians and medical practices.
  • The Little Rock Parks and Recreation created a fund-raising campaign where donors were encouraged to purchase trail “by the foot.”
  • City Parks Conservancy assisted with fundraising and the administration of the funds for the project.
  • Fundraising began in December of 2003.
  • Ribbon cutting was in November of 2006.
  • National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program
  • American Trails
  • Heart Clinic Arkansas – Eleanor E. Kennedy, M.D,
  • Little Rock Parks & Recreation
  • Arkansas River Trail
  • City Parks Conservancy
Lessons Learned
  • Promoting outdoor activity is not only good for health, but also strengthens the community.
Related Resources