'Family' a Part of History at Daisy State Park
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February 19, 2002'Family' a Part of History at Daisy State Park
Jay Harrod, travel editor
Arkansas Department of Parks and TourismArkansas's eighth state park, Daisy, is located on 7,000-acre Lake Greeson about 50 miles west of Arkadelphia. The clean, clear lake makes the park a favorite of campers seeking water sports and fishing. Nearby attractions such as the Little Missouri River, the Ouachita National Forest and Crater of Diamonds State Park make it a good base camp for other activities. For additional information, call (870) 398-4487, or visit ArkansasStateParks.com.
Some things at Daisy State Park haven't changed much. Although the park's campsites have evolved from simple cleared areas to sites with surfaced RV pads, water and electricity, and although nearly $1 million spent in the last year has resulted in a new playground, a screened pavilion and other improvements, some of the faces you encounter at Daisy are likely to be the same ones you would've seen in 1954, the year the park was acquired.
In its 42 years of existence, longtime visitors have known only two superintendents at Daisy -- Roy Jones, the superintendent since 1973, and Roy's father, Clarence Jones. So it comes as no surprise that working at Daisy and getting to know its many return campers is something Roy Jones has literally grown up doing.
"They started paying me in 1961," Jones said. "But I was working here a lot before then," adding there was plenty of work to be done in the early days. The state acquired the park from the Army Corps of Engineers, which during the 1950s created several lakes around the state. In Greeson's case, the Corps did so for flood control and hydroelectric power.
"The Corps had actually made a little park here," Jones said. "There were seven campsites, two wells with hand pumps on them, and two pit toilets. And that was all that was here when it became a state park." According to Jones, the first thing his father did was to clear areas for new and improved campsites, which turned out to be a seemingly never-ending project because of the constant change in visitors' expectations and their gear.
"Back years ago, the people that used to come out and camp might not even have tents. They might not even have tarps," Jones said. "They might just have cots or sleep out on the ground, or sleep in the back of a pick-up. It's really changed through the years. And the trailers just keep getting bigger and bigger."
Longtime guests to Daisy, who think of Jones as more of a good friend than park superintendent, have noticed the changes as well. Irby Smith, 72, of Sherman, Texas, and his wife have come to Daisy "every summer" since 1956.
"My wife and I raised three children here on the lake," said Smith, who also credits his children's eventual success in life to family ties strengthened by vacations at the park. According to Smith, camping at Daisy still provides an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, but things aren't the same as they were in 1956.
"We started out with tarps stretched out over trees and poles. Then we went to tents. Then we went to fold out campers. And now we have campers like we have here now," Smith said laughing. "Which doesn't really feel like camping. It's just like being at home." And something else has changed, too, Smith said as he pointed to a cable running from his trailer to a satellite dish. "We've got everything now."
One thing Jones has tried to keep the same, though, is the feeling of being at home when visiting his park -- even for the folks from Texas and Louisiana, who make up the bulk of visitors each year. To help accomplish this, Jones started a camping reunion 12 years ago designed to bring together the "old timers," many of whom, like Smith, had been regulars at the park since its early days.
This year the nine-day reunion, which takes place each October and typically draws 100 people or more, featured a live band and dancing. "Some of [the campers] are getting into their eighties and get around a lot better than I do," Jones said, adding the event feels much like a family reunion. "We'll have potluck suppers, and every night up there they'll be playing games and stuff like that. We keep a fire going 24 hours a day. When the fire goes out, the camping reunion is over."
But the old timers, along with many first-time park visitors, will be there again next year -- visiting a place that's changed, but not all that much, which is exactly how most folks at Daisy like it.####
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
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"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"