Weekly Columns

Backyard Beauty

Aug 21 2013

Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro made national headlines in early August after a 12-year-old found a diamond the size of a jellybean that is estimated to be worth as much as $15,000. While the discovery of a rock this large is not common, it’s one of more than 325 diamonds found at the park this year. The possibility of finding a real gem draws people from all over the country to try their luck. 

Crater of Diamonds is just one of 52 state parks in Arkansas. These great outdoors spaces are a great visual display of the beauty, wonder and awe we are blessed with. Our state parks represent important chapters in our past and reflect the rich fabric of our state history. 

To preserve the land for recreational use, Arkansas’s first state park, Petit Jean State Park, was originally proposed as a national park. But with too few acres, the Director of the National Park Service suggested the proponents encourage the state legislature to adopt it as a state park. The legislature approved it in 1923 and it was dedicated in 1925. This park continues to be a great place for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors. 

Petit Jean is regularly visited by my family. Our family would make an annual trip to the state park and my girls still know their way around the trails of one of their favorite places in Arkansas. This year I’m excited to start another tradition involving our state parks by including stops at some of our parks during our annual Agriculture Tour. 

During our tour, we travel around the state and visit with farmers, growers and ranchers at their agribusinesses to highlight the important role agriculture plays in our economy. It is also an opportunity to learn the issues facing our state’s number one economic industry. As a member of the committee that will work out the differences between the Senate and House farm bills, I am committed to being a voice that serves the interests of the farming community. 

Our tour will take us to 15 counties and we’ll be spending three nights in our state parks. I’m anxious to experience the wilderness from the sites of the popular destinations of Petite Jean State Park, DeGray Lake Resort and Mount Magazine State Park. 

The Natural State provides plenty of opportunities for Arkansans to enjoy the great outdoors. Much like agriculture, it’s also an economic engine for our state. 

From agribusinesses, to hobbies and recreation- Arkansas is a tourist destination. During 2012, visitors spent an average of $252.29 per trip, resulting in $301 million in state taxes and $110 million in local taxes according to 2012 economic data compiled by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.

The outdoors plays a special role in our lives. Using our natural resources is a way of life for many Arkansas families and we are truly blessed by the magnificence that surrounds us. I encourage you to explore our backyard beauty.