Visitors to any of the Arkansas state parks now have the option to add stamps to a park passport. The new program was announced last week. Grady Spann, the director of Arkansas State Parks, says other park systems around the county have similar programs.
"The national parks do have a passport program, as do other state's park systems around the nation. And so, this is Arkansas’s version of that same concept to encourage people to visit all 52 of our parks."
Passport booklets can be picked up and stamped at any of the state's 46 parks that have active park rangers on duty at visitor's centers. Stamps are available at the remaining six parks via medallions that visitors can use to create rubbings in their passport books. Spann says he hopes the new incentive helps maintain the increase in usage the parks have seen in the last few months.
"You know when malls were closed and theaters were closed and those kinds of facilities were not available to the public, I think people discovered parks in a very unique and special way. People that may not have typically come to parks suddenly found that we really make a great destination. And it's a great destination for family; it's a great destination to social distance."
The state's parks have received around 1.7 million visitors since the middle of March, when many indoor facilities were closed as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The offerings at some parks remain limited or closed while the state is in Phase Two of re-opening, per Governor Asa Hutchinson's mandates. Group lodging at several parks are closed. All playgrounds are closed. Masks are required in indoor venues, and public swimming areas are operating at 50% capacity. Despite these limitations, Spann says the parks are receiving significantly more visitors than normal. Hiking and camping are unrestricted.