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Queen Wilhelmina State Park Receives 2005-2006 Region I Park of the Year Award

Nov 17 2006 12:52PM
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November 17, 2006

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State Parks Division
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Queen Wilhelmina State Park near Mena has been selected as the recipient of the 2005-2006 Region I Park of the Year Award by Arkansas State Parks, according to State Parks Director Greg Butts. He will present the award to Assistant Park Superintendent Nikki Cherry and her staff on November 20 at 11 a.m. at the park. Queen Wilhelmina State Park is located 13 miles west of Mena on Ark. 88.

Queen Wilhelmina is one of the 51 state Parks operated by the State Parks Division, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

The State Parks Division presents awards annually for park and museum excellence within Arkansas’s state parks system. The awards were announced at the annual business meeting of the park superintendents and museum directors. This year’s meeting was held September 26-28 at Mt. Magazine State Park near Paris.

The 2005-2006 awards honor the Park of the Year, Region I-IV winners, and awards for outstanding park maintenance, hospitality, volunteer program, resource management, interpretive program, and special event.

Director Butts noted, "Visitor comments, maintenance and operations, budget management, revenue production, interpretive program development, volunteer program activities, community public relations, resource management and many other factors are considered in selecting the award recipients."

Queen Wilhelmina is the Region I winner. This region falls within the northwest and west portion of Arkansas. The nine other parks in Region I are Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area at Wickes; Devil’s Den State Park near West Fork; Hobbs State Park – Conservation Area near Rogers; Lake Dardanelle State Park at Russellville; Lake Fort Smith State Park at Mountainburg; Lake Ouachita State Park near Mountain Pine; Mount Magazine State Park near Paris; Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park at Prairie Grove; and Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville.

Greg Butts said, "The staff at Queen Wilhelmina bring credit to the State of Arkansas with their dedicated work. This award recognizes their efforts, the public’s response to those efforts, and focuses on their exemplary work in all areas of park management over the past year."

Queen Wilhelmina is known for providing outstanding and exemplary service to their guests. Every employee makes hospitality a priority. As an example, during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Queen Wilhelmina welcomed displaced residents from Louisiana to the park until they were able to return to their homes. Since that time, some of the evacuees who stayed at the park have returned as guests on vacation. Other guests were referred to the park by evacuees. Glenda and Jack Parks of Lake Charles, Louisiana, wrote: "Thank you very much for your kindness and thoughtfulness during our stay. It was very much appreciated. We will return!!!"

The maintenance staff has shown improvement this year in working together as a team. One major project was the installation of a new floor in the kitchen. Four weeks were allotted for the project and the maintenance assisted the restaurant staff in moving everything in the kitchen, making minor repairs, installation by a contractor, and then re-installing all of the equipment. Many hours were spent on this project, but it was completed three days early and was under budget by almost $16,000. During this time, the staff worked together to keep the restaurant running for guests.

The most exciting development in programming was the increase in school programs. A Teacher’s Handbook was completed and placed on the website; and within a week, teachers were calling to schedule programs. School programs increased 33% (143) and total programs increased 40% (791). Collectively, attendance for all interpretive programs totaled 16,088.

In the area of resource management, soil erosion is a continuous problem with a combination of improvement projects and harsh winters. Harsh winters also cause problems with icing causing tree limbs to break which can result in the death of trees. The park is addressing these issues in various ways, to include transplanting trees. With dry conditions this past fiscal year, wild bears in the Rich Mountain area have had difficulty finding food and water and were frequently seen at the park. Information on bears has been posted on all bulletin boards and given to campers and guests. Park interpreters have provided more programs on bears, their role in the ecosystem, and precautions visitors should take if they encounter one.

In order to increase revenue, the park has promoted new package plans. Two old plans – Romantic Rendezvous and Ring in the New year – were revamped and two new package plans – Mountain Relaxation Getaway and Ouachita Trail Hiking – were introduced. These were promoted on the state’s website and at a travel show at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Revenue was also increased by booking five Elderhostels instead of having two. Restaurant revenue increased as a result of the designation of the Talimena Scenic Drive as one of America’s Scenic Byways. Interpreter Brad Holleman served as President of the Talimina Scenic Drive Association and, under his leadership, the drive was designated as a scenic byway

Volunteer hours increased by 10%. One group of thirteen from the American Hiking Society spent a week installing water bars through the Lovers’ Leap Trail and replacing a deteriorated bridge and replacing it with stepping stones.

Bill and Toby Glasco continued as camp hosts and assisted in mowing around campsites in preparation for campers, cleaning the bathhouse, cleaning grills in campsites, and assisting guests with any problem they might have. The Glasco’s contributions are an example of the importance of volunteers in state parks.

Along with Queen Wilhelmina State Park, other Arkansas State Parks Park of the Year Award winners for 2005-2006 were: Overall Park of the Year and Region III Park of the Year—Village Creek State Park near Wynne; Region II Park of the Year—Bull Shoals-White River State Park at Lakeview; and Region IV Park of the Year—Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro. Other award winners were: Outstanding Park Maintenance—White Oak Lake State Park near Bluff City and Toltec Mounds

Archeological State Park at Scott; Volunteer Program and Outstanding Interpretive Program—Bull Shoals-White River State Park at Lakeview; Outstanding Hospitality—Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs; Outstanding Resource Management— Mammoth Spring State Park at Mammoth Spring; and Outstanding Special Event—Crater of Diamonds State Park’s “100th Anniversary of the 1906 Discovery of Diamonds in Arkansas.”

For further information, contact: Greg Butts, Director, Arkansas State Parks, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 / Phone: (501) 682-7743 / E-mail: greg.butts@arkansas.gov; or Assistant Park Superintendent Nikki Cherry, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, 3877 Highway 88 West, Mena, AR 71953 / Phone: (479) 394-2863 / E-mail: nikki.cherry@arkansas.gov.