Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Weekly Radio Address

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Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address: Independence Day at Arkansas State Parks

LITTLE STONE – Today I’d like to talk about the 4th of July, or Independence Day, in Arkansas, the state with enough lakes, rivers, hiking trails and outdoor festivals to host 3 million of Arkansans and visitors as we celebrate 246 years of our Independence from the Nation. And of particular importance, are our beautiful state parks.

One of the best things about living in the natural state is the Arkansas State Park System, which turns 100 next year. The system attracts families and businesses considering moving to Arkansas.

Petit Jean, Arkansas’ first state park, opened in 1923 when the Fort Smith Lumber Company decided the area was too difficult for logging. Dr. TW Hardison, the Arkansas-born doctor who was the company doctor, suggested preserving the area as a park. The national park system declined because the area was not large enough. But the Arkansas General Assembly liked the idea, and lawmakers created Petit Jean State Park in 1923.

Over the next 99 years, Dr. Hardison’s efforts to preserve a forest have expanded to 52 state parks. Employees of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps built many trails and cabins, as well as much of the infrastructure during the Great Depression.

Arkansas state parks offer experiences for adventurers of all skill levels. You can explore the culture and spirit of Arkansas at the Ozark Folk Center and listen to musicians playing late into the night in the Mountain View plaza. You can watch the sunset at Sunset Point on Mount Nebo, learn Arkansas history at the Arkansas Post Museum, float down the river at Cossatot River State Park, or learn to forge a knife at the Arkansas Post Museum. Historic Washington State, where James Bowie, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett died while traveling.

The state park system was designed to ensure that Arkansans can always explore the beauty of nature and history, not far from their backyards. That’s why there’s a state park within 60 miles of every home in Arkansan. So you’re never too far from discovering what makes Arkansas great!

State parks offer a variety of ways to spend the 4th of July: at Washington Historic State Park, a reading of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence with Mr. Jefferson in full revolutionary gear; at Lake DeGray, a Freedom Fun Run; and at our first state park, Petit Jean, the annual 4th of July Day of Fun and Games includes a watermelon seed-spitting contest and wheelbarrow races.

For those who like to set goals or keep track of their travels, we offer a State Park Passport that you can get stamped at each park’s Visitor Center.

Through the hard work of thousands of people, our state parks have realized Dr. Hardison’s vision and aspirations. Our parks preserve the history, culture and beauty of our natural state and provide a place for us to experience the beauty of our state every day of the year and on special days such as the 4th of July.

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