As governor, no day is typical. I work with the legislature, pursue economic development opportunities, listen to the concerns of citizens and meet people from every corner of the state. I love my job, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the office and enjoy the Natural State.
Last weekend, the First Lady and I spent two days at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The birds were singing, the flowers were blooming and the weather was just right for a hike down Lover's Leap Trail. The mile-long loop near Mena is a great trail for hikers of all skill levels and offers some of the best views of the Ouachita Mountains.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park, named after the soon-to-be Queen of the Netherlands in 1898, originally hosted a luxurious mountain resort named "Castle in the Sky" on account of its grandeur. But soon after its opening, the Wilhelmina Inn faced financial hardships and fell into a state of disrepair. By the 1930's, only pieces of the original stone fireplaces remained, which can still be seen on the park's Reservoir Trail today.
In 1957, community leaders and legislators created a resolution to resurrect Arkansas's "Castle in the Sky" and established the original site of the Wilhelmina Inn as an Arkansas State Park.
Since then, the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge has become the park's crowning attraction. Since extensive renovations, the lodge is projected to finish its first year of operation with an occupancy rate of almost 76 percent -- that's a nearly twenty percent increase from before the renovations were made in 2011. Now, visitors get to enjoy larger rooms with modern amenities and even bigger windows to admire the view -- I know Susan and I did!
Every year, Queen Wilhelmina State Park attracts over 160,000 visitors who stay in the lodge, enjoy a good meal, or hike one of the scenic trails. For someone who spends a lot of time in the office, getting outside and enjoying nature was just what I needed before starting our fiscal session.
Few experiences can compare to seeing and staying at Arkansas's beautiful state parks in the springtime. As a lifelong Arkansan, I can attest there's no better place for a fun, inexpensive, memorable getaway than visiting places like Queen Wilhelmina State Park. So as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, grab your hiking boots and get ready for an adventure.