Legacy Week to show state parks not just fun in sun
Posted: August 28, 2014 at 1:59 a.m.
People hear "state park" and a vision often comes to mind: a day boating or swimming at a lake. Maybe a walk in the woods or a scramble up a mountain. But the state parks can be so much more, and the Arkansas State Park system has a brand new event to help visitors see that: Legacy Week.
"I think people know state parks are about fun and they're places for families to make memories," says Kelly Farrell, chief of interpretation and program services for Arkansas State Parks. "We're just adding a deeper meaning to the programming people already expect from us."
Today through Monday, all Arkansas State Parks
Admission: Free for most activities
The plan is to give visitors who are already visiting the parks a complete understanding of all the parks do. They're not just places for relaxation. They're also conservation agencies, revenue generators and places with a rich history and collection of cultural and natural resources to protect and share with the public.
Through Monday, all staffed parks across the state will feature activities designed to celebrate the existence and mission of the park system under the theme "Connecting to Your Roots and Conserving Our Legacy."
"It's not that we're doing anything terrifically new," Farrell says. For instance, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park will continue with its big annual Clothesline Fair from Saturday through Monday.
"We're just really emphasizing what parks are about on this week."
That's different things for different parks. After all, there are 52 of them scattered across the state, and the superintendents and interpreters at each park were given free rein to decide what would work best for their resources and audiences. It may be hiking along a rocky trail at Petit Jean Mountain State Park, making a corn-husk doll at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, contributing to a Legacy Quilt at Scott's Plantation Agriculture Museum or participating in a nature scavenger hunt at Pinnacle Mountain.
Legacy Week was created by the Interpretation Advisory Committee, a group of interpretive leaders representing each of the park "types": natural, historic, recreation and museum.
The interpreters at parks develop and lead programming to help visitors get "a deeper sense of place." They can explain the history or the conservation efforts or point out rare species of plants and insects.
Farrell says, "We help park visitors understand what the parks mean, how things in them fit together and, most importantly, why they matter."
The committee decided that Labor Day weekend was the perfect time to plan the celebration. After all, on Labor Day weekend, the parks are usually "full to capacity" with families looking for an end-of-summer getaway before everyone falls into the increasingly frantic race through autumn.
Those crowds create a perfect opportunity -- a ready-made audience with which to share the Legacy Week mission.
And for visitors, it doesn't take a lot of valuable time to find a park to visit.
"One thing a lot of people don't know is that there is a state park within an hour or less drive of every Arkansan," Farrell says.
People tend to be drawn to the "flagship" parks like Petit Jean, Mount Magazine and DeGray Lake Resort. But there are other gems, like Lake Chicot and Village Creek.
"I think the biggest thing we try to help people in Arkansas understand is that we have so many parks that are special places," Farrell says. "Arkansans have special places spread across the whole state where they can go generation to generation, where they can take their families to have quality, safe outdoor experiences."
And while summer may be peak time for people heading out to the parks, the fun continues all year long.
"We want visitors to associate Arkansas State Parks with year-round opportunities, not just a place to go to the lake or a place for summer camping," she explains. "We don't close up shop after the kids go back to school."
Weekend on 08/28/2014