Dedication of Historic Van Winkle Trail at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area Slated for June 4

June 3, 2005


Dedication of Historic Van Winkle Trail at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area Slated for June 4
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Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
State Parks Division

ROGERS--In its initial development stage, Arkansas’s largest state park in land area, 11,764-acre Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area near Rogers, continues to take shape as more outdoor facilities are developed for park visitors. The park’s new Historic Van Winkle Trail will be dedicated during its grand opening ceremony slated for Saturday, June 4 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be held at the trailhead parking lot located in Van Winkle Hollow on Ark. 12.

Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts and Park Superintendent Mark Clippinger will be joined by state and local officials at the ceremony. Also in attendance will be numerous descendants of Peter Van Winkle, as well as members of the park’s volunteer support group, Friends of Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. The public is invited to attend.

Parking will not be available at the dedication site. Shuttle vans will operate from 8 a.m. until 9:45 a.m. from the Sharps Show parking area at War Eagle to the dedication site.

From Rogers, travel 13 miles east on Ark. 12, turn right on War Eagle Road and go approximately one mile to the parking area.

The new one-half-mile trail will lead hikers through a tunnel under State Highway 12 to the site of the historic Van Winkle lumber mill and home in Van Winkle Hollow on the West Fork of Little Clifty Creek. Here hikers can see the remnants of a sawmill and an antebellum garden owned by Peter Van Winkle during the 19th century. Beginning in the 1840s and continuing throughout his life, Van Winkle acquired approximately 17,000 acres of land throughout Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties by filing for land patents and purchasing foreclosed land.

The tunnel and associated walkways were designed to provide barrier-free access to the historic site. Wayside interpretive panels along the trail provide hikers with information about this historic area.

The parking lot at the trailhead will serve as the access point for the trail. The lot is large enough to accommodate two school buses or recreational vehicles, and 18 automobiles. Public restrooms are located adjacent to the parking area.

Perry Butcher & Associates of Rogers served as the design consultant, and Buildings, Inc. of Springdale constructed the trail. The project totaled $616,663. It was funded by Amendment 75, Arkansas’s 1/8-cent conservation amendment passed by Arkansas voters in November 1996.

Drawn to southeast Benton County's large supply of pine trees, Van Winkle became the first lumber king of the area. He built and operated one of Arkansas’s largest sawmills, and supplied the lumber for many of the Victorian houses that grace towns like Eureka Springs, Fayetteville and Bentonville. Van Winkle also provided the majority of the lumber used in the construction of Old Main at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is one of Arkansas’s 51 state parks. Formerly known as Beaver Lake State Park, Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area (HSPCA) is in its initial development phase. Twenty-two of the park’s 60 miles of border stretch along the shores of Beaver Lake. HSPCA is jointly managed by Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The park is located 10 miles east of Rogers on Ark. 12, which bisects the park property.

This large tract of Ozark landscape consists of plateaus, ridges, valleys and streams featuring an upland forest of pine, oak and hickory. Many water features—disappearing streams, springs and seeps—have carved the many hollows in this fragile limestone landscape, as well as created cave-related features including numerous sinkholes.

In addition to the new Historic Van Winkle Trail, the park features two other hiking trails. Pigeon Roost Trail stretches for eight and a half miles. Along its figure eight design are five primitive campsites featuring one to five tent pads each. The sites are available free-of-charge. The trail is perfect for a short day hike or as a beginner's backpacking trail.

Shaddox Hollow Trail is a 1.5-mile loop that leads hikers through a variety of Ozark microclimates. According to Clippinger, "Shaddox Hollow Trail is used primarily as our educational trail for visiting school groups." He continued, "Environmental education is an important part of our park’s mission.” Clippinger noted that the natural and historical elements of the park make for a wide variety of program topics that are offered to park visitors and area schools by the park interpreter.

HSPCA also offers an all-weather public firing range, regulated seasonal hunting, undeveloped access to Beaver Lake, and interpretive programs. This is Arkansas’s only state park where hunting is allowed.

Future development and expanded visitor programs at the HSPCA will include educational opportunities at a visitor/educational center, camping, cabins, pavilions, picnic areas, additional hiking trails, and archery and orienteering courses. The 17,000-square-foot visitor center will feature an exhibit gallery, wildlife viewing area and two classrooms. Future plans for the center call for a "mock" cave environment that visitors can view after descending by elevator to the building’s lower level.

In addition, a new 16-mile, multi-use trail will open at the park this summer. The trail is designed for use by hiking, biking and horseback riding enthusiasts and hunters.

According to HSPCA Park Interpreter Steve Chyrchel, “During the Civil War, thousands of Union and Confederate troops passed in front of the Van Winkle house. Major General Earl Van Dorn retreated from the battle of Pea Ridge with the majority of the Confederate Army of the West, staying the night at the Van Winkle mill on March 8, 1862. Other Confederate and Union forces passed in front of the Van Winkle house in maneuvers that preceded the battle of Prairie Grove fought later that year on December 7.”

Chyrchel noted that during the Civil War, Van Winkle's first house and mill were burned. By April 1866, Van Winkle had his mill rebuilt, in turn providing wood for the reconstruction of northwest Arkansas. In 1872, Van Winkle rebuilt his family’s home on the same site.

Ironically, Van Winkle's heirs lost much of their property in the same manner it was acquired, through foreclosure. In 1928, Roscoe Hobbs purchased some of the Van Winkle land and used second-growth, hardwood timber there to supply his railroad tie and timber company. In the 1940s, he bought the remainder of the Van Winkle estate.

After Hobbs' death, Harvey and Bernice Jones purchased the Van Winkle house in 1969 and used its slave-made chimney bricks and other disassembled materials to build structures at their Oklahoma public attraction, Har-Ber Village. The Jones' are well known throughout northwest Arkansas for establishing Jones Truck Lines, the Jones Center for Families in Springdale, and for their charitable community contributions.

Insufficient funds kept the state of Arkansas from acting immediately to acquire the land for a state park. This stirred interest among others to acquire the tract. One of at least 30 prospective buyers, the Forbes family, who publishes and owns Forbes magazine, made an offer. That offer was rejected because it was less than the asking price. Then, after negotiations with a California developer failed, county and state officials began a serious effort to purchase the land. These plans succeeded in 1979.

That year, the Arkansas Nature Conservancy bought the Hobbs estate for $3.25 million and held it until the state of Arkansas could secure funding to then purchase it. Act 128 of 1979 authorized Arkansas State Parks to acquire the property and appropriated $2 million in state funds for its purchase. The remainder of the funding came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including a discretionary grant from the Secretary of the Interior.

Over the past few years, archeological digs conducted by the University of Arkansas’s Archaeological Survey have unearthed several of the features of Van Winkle's property including the slave quarters, a blacksmith shop, a mill site, the Van Winkle house site, 19th-century dump sites and a raised garden.

Historical preservation is likewise an important part of the park's conservation mission. The park’s full mission statement is “To provide enriching educational and recreational experiences in harmony with resource stewardship.”

The park staff also devotes much time towards resource management and inventories of the area’s flora and fauna. In addition, biology and environmental science students from the Northwest Arkansas Community College have worked on several on-going research projects in the park including turkey censuses, deer spotlight surveys and water quality monitoring.

For further information, contact: Joan Ellison, public information officer, Arkansas State Parks, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, phone: (501) 682-2873, e-mail: joan.ellison@arkansas.gov; or Mark Clippinger, park superintendent, Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, 21392 East Highway 12, Rogers, AR 72756, phone: (479) 789-2380, e-mail: mark.clippinger@arkansas.gov.

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Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"