AR State Parks Boost Tourism

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Arkansas has dozens of state parks, some of which are in the northwestern part of the state. They provide countless sights and sounds, drawing the attention of not just locals but people from all over, boosting tourism numbers in the Natural State.

“Almost every weekend, the campground is full of people pulling campers with their ATV's behind them, and then they hit the trails when they get here,” park superintendent Becky Bariola said.

She works for the AR Dept. of Parks and Tourism which maintains more than 50 state parks in the Natural State. Topping the list in a very literal sense is Mount Magazine State Park, located in Logan County, where you’ll find the highest point in the state. The area is perfect for a variety of outdoor adventures, and at 2,753 feet, the views from the top are hard to beat.

“We're seeing more and more people bring ATV's. We have the hang-gliders coming out more. All around, people are coming out to enjoy the colors and the beautiful weather,” Bariola said.

“It's just a wonderful place to come and kind of unplug for a little bit and enjoy the beauty of Arkansas…at Arkansas' highest point,” regional supervisor Grady Spann said.

“My opinion is if you're in the highest point in Arkansas, then you're on top of the world,” U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman said.

He represents Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District which encompasses the state park, and 5NEWS was there as he toured the Lodge at Mt. Magazine.

“It's just a great place to relax and enjoy. There are plenty of hiking trails and opportunities to camp, and the ability to get out and see nature,” Westerman said. “I saw a bear crossing on the way up the road, so there’s obviously a lot of wildlife here.”

There are also a lot of visitors, often times filling up the 60 rooms and 13 cabins that can be rented at the Lodge.

“Tourism is up this year for us. We have 100 percent occupancy, right now, due to the fall season,” Bariola said.

According to the AR Dept. of Parks and Tourism, every year, more than 200,000 people visit Mt. Magazine, which is just one of 52 state parks in Arkansas.

“I was reading data that shows for every resident in the state, we get about 7 visitors per year,” Westerman said.

And a lot of people means a lot of money which is good news, across the board.

“It's a huge boost to the economy - about $6.3 billion a year statewide, and a lot of that's right here in the 4th district,” Westerman said.

An interesting fact – Mt. Magazine sits on land that’s owned by the National Forest Service…meaning the more than 2,200 acres are actually being leased.

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