PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - One Region 8 park is being recognized for hard work during a challenging year.
"We can say that we are an award-winning park," Superintendent Gretchen Sacotnik says, "That's great."
Last week Sacotnik, along with other Arkansas State Park Superintendents, attended a special three-day meeting to assess the status of their parks and recognize achievements. The meeting was held at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. Superintendents from all over the state are required to send in their Fiscal Year Reports for review. The first line from Sacotnik's report simply says "FT 08/09 proved to be an exciting but stressful year." It was at this meeting that Crowley's Ridge State Park was named Region 3 Park of the Year.
"We were thrilled that we were selected this year," Sacotnik claims, "especially since we were closed for two months."
Sacotnik says she was somewhat surprised at their achievement. Last December began on a positive note with strong sales and expenses being under-budget. However, the January Ice Storm changed that. Debris and damage from the storm caused Crowley's Ridge to do what it had never done---close itself to the public. The park was recognized as a State Park in 1933 and since that time had never had to close its doors.
"It was just unsafe with all the debris," Sacotnik explains, "my crew worked hard to get the park back to the way it was before."
Sixty-five days later, with the help of employees, cleaning crews, and community volunteers, the park was re-opened.
The damages and the recovery from the ice storm was one of a number of areas state parks were rated on for recognition. Rating was also based on revenue and expenses, in-house maintenance projects, resource management, interpretation programming, law enforcement, special events, volunteer participation, hospitality (comments made by guests), travel shows or any promotional or marketing efforts, and special awards or recognition.
Out of 17 other State Parks within Region 3, Crowley's Ridge State Park rated the highest.
Despite the Ice Storm interruption, this last year has been a busy one for Crowley's Ridge.
Some special projects from this past year include the addition of a dog kennel which can be used for hunters in the winter, installation of a new water line, and renovations of cabins, kitchens, and other buildings. There were also minor projects such as painting lodge areas, cabins, the amphitheater, visitor center and the signs throughout the park.
Another area the park was highlighted for was the 63% increase in contacts from the programs they provide. Having only one interpreter, Heather Runyan, this is a great accomplishment. Runyan, alone, held 486 programs, workshops, and events.
Sacotnik says this award is not only for her staff, but for all the volunteers who have helped them get through this year.
"I think everyone can be proud of their state parks. This is not about awards, but it does help when your crew gets recognized for all their hard work."
Other parks recognized at this meeting: Lake Dardanelle, Lake Ouachita, Crater of Diamonds, Prarie Grove Battlefield, Logoly, Cane Creek, Hobbs, Bull Shoals White River, and Lake Catherine. Lake Catherine State Park was chosen as the Overall Park of the Year.