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Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders kicked off a centennial celebration of Arkansas State Parks today at Petit Jean State Park’s Mather Lodge in Morrilton.
The special event included a proclamation and remarks by the governor, as well as remarks from special guests, including Arkansas State Parks Director Shea Lewis; Chairman of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission, Randy Wolfinbarger; Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Mike Mills; members of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission; and park rangers. Centennial badges were presented to park rangers by Lewis.
The Arkansas state park system was created with the Arkansas Legislature’s Act 276 of 1923, which authorized the Commissioner of State Lands to accept land donations for state parks and reservations. What began as part of a preservation effort to protect a special place in Arkansas became Arkansas’s first state park – Petit Jean State Park.
To date, the Arkansas State Parks system encompasses 52 state parks in 48 counties and more than 55,000 acres of public land.
“Our Arkansas State Parks are some of the best in the nation,” said Mike Mills, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Whether you are a history buff, love to hike, paddle, bike, wildlife watch or just enjoy being in the outdoors, there is a state park where you can have a meaningful experience and feel welcome.”
As part of its mission, the Arkansas State Parks system is committed to providing quality recreational and educational opportunities, as well as preserving natural, historic and cultural resources.
“Whether it’s your first state park visit, you are a frequent guest or you are introducing the next generation of park stewards to the state, we hope you build a personal and lasting connection to Arkansas State Parks,” said Shea Lewis, director of Arkansas State Parks. “And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited us, we hope you can rekindle your love for state parks around a campfire, experience our rich Arkansas history by visiting one of our historical parks or museums or just get out and explore all our state parks have to offer. There really is something for everyone.”
Unlike some state park systems in the U.S., Arkansas State Parks are free to enter thanks to funds from the Arkansas Conservation Sales Tax created in 1996 by Amendment 75. Every community in Arkansas is within an hour’s drive of a state park.
The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism has created a commemorative video to celebrate the centennial. The video can be viewed here.
For more information about upcoming centennial events, visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com/centennial. Follow Facebook.com/StateParksofArkansas to keep up with news and events.