Weekly Columns

I’m fortunate that my daily work takes me around the state to attend meetings and better understand the needs of communities. In the process, I get to visit well-known and some not-so-well-known places. As the weather gets warmer, I know many of us will be hitting state highways in search of new adventures, so I want to share some of the sites that Arkansans have shared with me recently. 

My father was a WWII veteran, so I’m always interested in military history. A few months ago I had the opportunity to attend a veterans reunion at the Wings of Honor WWII Museum in Walnut Ridge. I was impressed with the efforts to preserve the history of the Army Flying School and Marine Corps Air Facility. We can be proud of the civilian and military personnel who served to maintain our freedom. 

An important piece of WWII history docked in Arkansas last November. The USS Hoga, a harbor tug best known for its actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, found a home at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in Little Rock. Within minutes of the first Japanese bombs falling, the Hoga and its crew rescued sailors, fought fires and prevented the U.S. fleet from being blocked in the harbor. The heroic efforts of the ship and the crew earned it the designation of National Historic Landmark.  

We are blessed with many opportunities for outdoor adventures in Arkansas. I recently heard from a Boy Scout troop that traveled to Blanchard Springs Caverns in Stone County for a camping trip. The scouts were amazed by this site located in the Ozark National Forest. 

If you like a beautiful view, you will share my appreciation for Queen Wilhelmina State Park in the Ouachita Mountains. The lodge re-opened in 2015 and provides great access to the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This is a great spot for motorcycle riders and anyone who enjoys a scenic drive. 

The Razorback Regional Greenway is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. This trail system connects many communities in Northwest Arkansas and offers a beautiful way to see the area by bicycle. I hear regularly from friends and family who take advantage of the trail and appreciate what an asset it is to the area. 

Another good walking and biking location is downtown Fort Smith. I recently had the chance to see the amazing street art from last fall’s Unexpected Project. This international art festival brought world-recognized artists to the city where they created twelve very large works of art. One of works was recently included on a list of the top ten street art creations in the world for 2015. On April 30, a statue of General William O. Darby, the founder of the Army Rangers, will be unveiled. 

Arkansans are also excited about changes at the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs. Last year the museum re-opened after a major renovation. This year it was named one of 30 finalists for the 2016 Medal for Museum and Library Service. Officials with the Institute for Museum and Library Service (IMLS) want to hear from visitors to help with the final award. After you visit the museum, you can share your thoughts on IMLS Facebook page. 

Whether you plan to float the Caddo River this spring, take in a horse race, or are waiting for warmer weather to enjoy the new water parks in Arkadelphia and Texarkana, there are countless places to enjoy. I’m honored to support our parks, forests and attractions at the federal level to keep our state a treasure for generations to come. I also look forward to seeing your favorite sites. If you have pictures you would like to share, post them to Instagram and tag #Love4AR.