Kelly Farrell, the chief of interpretation for Arkansas State Parks, gave a presentation to the El Dorado Kiwanis Club Wednesday, where she spoke about some of the organization’s upcoming initiatives.
The 22-year Parks employee started her presentation by talking about how much of an impact COVID-19 had on Arkansas State Parks operations.
“Here in Arkansas, our state parks are nearly close to full operation with the exception of a few things that have changed,” Farrell said. “Last year was a rough year as you all know.”
Farrell shared that $20 million in grant money given by the Walton Family Foundation will be put to use very soon to complete construction of the Delta Heritage Trail State Park in southeast Arkansas. The 50/50 matching grant will provide a total of $40 million and will allow Arkansas State Parks to complete the construction of the Delta Heritage Trail over the next five years. Delta Heritage Trail State Park is an 84.5-mile biking and pedestrian trail from Lexa to Arkansas City.
“As a matching grant, we have a lot of managers and administrators that are working on plans on how to do $40 million dollars worth of designs and construction on this trail,” Farrell said. “The construction through this grant will mean some significant bridges over the White River, the White River National Wildlife refuges and the Arkansas River. So that will be an incredible project and will provide a lot of economic development in southeast Arkansas.”
As more and more people get vaccinated against COVID and parks begin to become fully open, the demand for park access and outings has increased, Farrell said. To help with the increase in demand, Arkansas State Parks are constructing what they are calling “Camper Cabins” that can be reserved for stays and trips.
“It is a smaller cabin,” Farrell said. “There is no indoor bathroom in the cabins; you use the shower house and bathhouse that are on the campgrounds. They are screened in, smaller and at a lower price point and affordable for people looking for that.”
Farrell also encouraged Kiwanians to take advantage of the state parks near El Dorado, like the Moro Bay State Park, for exercise and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
“I hope you all take advantage of the local parks around here,” Farrell said. “You all have some terrific ones in El Dorado and they can help you establish healthy habits.”
Read the original story on the El Dorado News website here.