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A recent article in the Northwest Arkansas section of the Democrat-Gazette stated that a new 550-acre state park is being developed in Lee and Phillips Counties and will be located inside the St. Francis National Forest.

The writer referred to it as "the first-ever state park along the Mississippi River."

I immediately thought of Lake Chicot, a park in the extreme southeast corner of the state, and wondered why its location would not be considered "along the Mississippi River." The lake, after all, is a 20-mile long oxbow of Old Man River.

After review, I understand that the lake detached (or whatever you call it when an oxbow separates from the river and forms a lake) centuries ago when the river changed course, so I suppose it doesn't officially meet the criteria.

Unofficially though, it seems to me that we sort of already have one "state park along the Mississippi River," but, hey, I'm glad we're getting another.

Even though the new park is still quite a drive - one we'llhave to make before long - it's closer than Lake Chicot, which, as I have it figured, is the farthest state park from our hometown area.

Thanks for staying with me while I babbled through that ... Sometimes I just have to use words when I ponder things.

My husband doesn't especially appreciate this, but he's learned to look as though he's listening even when he isn't really : which looks about the same as if he were listening to the rattle of a marble rolling around in a tin can.

Wait, don't stop reading now! I'm wandering back to the point, really ... rattle ... rattle.:

Anyway, we attempted a visit to the Mississippi River State Park early in the year during one of our trips to east Arkansas but were told that it had not opened yet. I checkedagain a few weeks ago by calling a different park near there.

A section or two is now ready for visitors, with much more to come in the future, according to the park attendant.

The newspaper article reported that the park will be completed in phases over the next several years with the state kicking in a cool $25 million.

Speaking of state park funding, we have noticed a little sign posted at many of the parks we have visited that said something like, "Funded by your conservation tax, amendment 75."

In 1996 Arkansas voters approved a 1/8 cent sales tax to provide ongoing financial support for the parks system and Game and Fish Commission.

While visiting parks this year, we have seen this tax money at work. For the most part, the parks have been well kept andmuch nicer places than what one might have seen years ago.

We have been amazed by some of the wonderful visitor centers, too. Many have exhibits that are fun and interesting, and several also have videos visitors can watch to learn more about the park and the surrounding area. Many parks provide educational programs for school groups and others, as well as many other services that may not have been available years ago.

All in all, we have been impressed with how the tax money has benefited the state park system. Arkansans can feel a sense of ownership when they visit these places since the support of our hard-earned dollars makes them possible. The parks belong to all of us.

There is another new state park in the development stage.

It is called Delta Heritage Trail,and it is also located in east central Arkansas. Trails are being constructed along a 73 mile stretch of the old Union Pacific Railroad right of way. Once completed, hikers will get "sweeping views" from bridges over the Arkansas River and the White River.

I am looking forward to a nice walk on this trail when we visit the two new state parks later this year. After that, we will have checked off all parks on the eastern side of the state.

I know I have meandered a bit in this week's column and maybe rattled a bit here and there, so I will conclude now with a trivia question: Mississippi River State Park is the second Arkansas state park to be located inside a national forest. Which park was the first?

If you know, e-mail the answer to awalkinthepark50@yahoo.com.

Forum, Pages 5 on 08/12/2009

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