Marianna -- Starting May 1, Arkansas State Parks will take over the management and operations at the 253-acre Bear Creek Recreation Area of the St. Francis National Forest. This is Phase I of the three-phased process creating Mississippi River State Park at several different sites within the national forest through a Special Use Permit from the USDA Forest Service. The 550-acre state park will encompass approximately 2.4 percent of the forest’s total 22,600-acres. The state park areas will serve as recreation sites within the forest while the Forest Service will continue managing the forest and its resources.
According to Park Superintendent John Morrow, “Beginning May 1, Arkansas State Parks’ camping rules and regulations will take effect at the three campgrounds on Bear Creek Lake.” He noted that fees will stay the same for the rest of the year at Lone Pine Campground and Maple Flat Campground. However, when Beech Point Campground reopens in late-summer 2010 following the current renovations underway there, the fee for each campsite rental will be $27 per night for the improved sites. Accessed from Hwy. 44 and situated on a wooded peninsula in the lake, the campground will feature 14 Class AAA campsites with water/electric/sewer hookups and three walk-in tent sites. Each paved site will have an adjacent, extended hardened living area with picnic table, grill and lantern hanger. Selected campsites will feature tent pads. Trash receptacles will be spaced throughout the campground. A new barrier-free bathhouse will be centrally located. Improvements to the campground will also include the access road and all utilities including new water and wastewater treatment and distribution systems. Two new courtesy docks will be constructed in the campground so that boaters will have easy access to the lake. Beech Point remains closed at this time as these major improvements are being made to this popular campground.
Morrow emphasized that fee collection for camping will continue to be through the self-pay system. All campsites will be available on a first come, first served basis.
In addition to managing the three campgrounds within Bear Creek Lake, Arkansas State Parks will also begin administering the Day-use Area, boat ramp and the Bear Creek Lake Nature Trail. As in all other Arkansas state parks, the Day-use Area and boat ramp will be available to the public free of charge. Picnicking at the Beaver Point Picnic Area can also be enjoyed at no cost.
Arkansas State Parks does not honor any federal camping discount cards but does offer its own camping discounts. The state park system’s Web site, ArkansasStateParks.com, lists camping regulations, fees and discounts. Details are also listed in the Arkansas State Parks 2009 guidebook, the printed guide to Arkansas’s 52 state parks. A free copy can by ordered calling the state park director’s office at 1-888-AT-PARKS.
Arkansas State Parks will enforce the no hunting regulations within the permit boundaries that comprise the state park areas. These sites, since they have already been serving as public campgrounds and picnic areas, have traditionally been off limits to hunting activities.
John Morrow said, “We are excited about the development of Mississippi River State Park at these popular recreation facilities.” He noted, “The Forest Service laid the groundwork for some very nice recreational sites. Each area was developed at an optimal location that has attracted, and been enjoyed by, local residents and visitors from far and wide over the years.”
John Crockett, deputy district ranger for the St. Francis National Forest, added, “We are glad to see this day come. It will be of benefit for the recreating public, as well as for the USDA Forest Service and Arkansas State Parks in this win-win state and federal partnership.” He noted that the management will continue in the national forest as it has historically. “I’m excited to be working side by side with Arkansas State Parks and the new park superintendent on this project.”
Mississippi River State Park is one of 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
For further information, contact: John Morrow, park superintendent, Mississippi River State Park, 2677 Hwy. 44, Marianna, AR 72360; phone: 870-295-4040 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org