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123 - Hobbs State Park is the Crown Jewel of Northwest Arkansas Parks

by Randy Wilburn
June 7th 2021
About the Show:                           Hobbs State Park-Conservation Are... More
Hey, this is gary head at signature Bank of Arkansas. We founded signature bank in 2005 with local ownership. To serve our communities with the best bankers with the most authority to do business. We have succeeded in growing our bank to over 800 million in assets, including 50 million in growth in the first quarter. In 21 we have 100 and 55 teammates that love our communities and the customers that we serve. We're always here to serve and eager to do so as chairman and Ceo, I welcome your call to have the opportunity to serve you. Please call for 79684 4700 or online at signature dot bank and tell them that you heard about this. That I am Northwest Arkansas. Mm It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship and life in general.

Here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilbur. Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host, Randy Wilbur and I'm excited to be with you today. Got another great episode for you again, as I tell you guys all the time when you're listening to this podcast, if you can think of somebody that you say, you know, they'd be great on the podcast, refer them to me, I'll track them down, I'll connect with them and get them on the podcast. Well, my next guest is actually one of those individuals. I'm here with Park Superintendent. Mark Clippinger and Mark is the Park superintendent at Hobbs State Park out here on the east side of Rogers, kinda not terribly far from Beaver Lake, but he is, this is the largest park system here in Arkansas and it's, it's a really interesting place and so I just want to encourage you guys to come out here.

But without further ado, I want to introduce you to Park Superintendent, Mark Clippinger, How are you doing? Doing? Great, thank you for having made it. Absolutely, absolutely. So listen, I just, we always start this podcast off and everybody that's familiar with it, we always want to get the individual superhero origin story. So if you would love to indulge your audience, just tell us a little bit about you, you've got, you've been doing this for a long time. I would love for you just to kind of share how you got here and you know why you became a park ranger, Sure be glad to do that about superhero. But uh, I've had a great career, I've been very blessed in my assignments with the Arkansas state park system and I actually was in private industry and instead of going to college to become a police officer and I went to Memphis State University of Memphis. Now they had a two semester park ranger training program there at that time, was taught by a National Park Service representatives, actually a professor at the university who spent his summers at Arcadia National Park. So I was an Eagle Scout and I loved the outdoors and spend a lot of time there. So I combined my interest in emergency services with the outdoors and went to the school and, and was hired by Arkansas State Parks actually had the opportunity to go to national Park service, olympic national Park.

But I realized that my opportunity wouldn't be as great and as diverse as they would be at a local system. So I came to Arkansas in the May of 1983 and was stationed at with their Spring State Park back then. Not always glamorous assignments when you're trying to bring staff in competition was very tough. A lot of people positions. I actually live, began my career living out of a snack bar with those Springs State Park. That's how difficult it was to get in back then and served as a seasonal ranger there and then lucky enough to be assigned to lake Washington State Park down around hot Springs on Lake Washington, Absolutely beautiful lake down there. And then since my assignment at Withrow, part of their responsibility was to come up here to the Habs area, which was acquired in february of 1979 Governor David Pryor was instrumental along with local representatives, legislative representatives and acquiring this site and Governor Bill Clinton actually signed the legislation for the appropriation actually cost three and a quarter million dollars. This acquisition did two million of that was from state revenue and a million quarter came from federal funds to help us push over the top.

If it wasn't for the local citizens in Northwest Arkansas back then this place might not have been saved. It was looked at very hard for development. So you can imagine with the growth in Northwest Arkansas, what was going to happen to this location with whether it be commercial or residential buildings. So we're very fortunate to be able to acquire this. And if it hadn't been for 23 Northwest Arkansas Banks that put the funding together through the Nature Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy is one of our strong partners back then. They held it until the state could get their affairs in order. And at that time in february 1979 the acquisition occurred. And again, that's how with their springs got tied into this. Their staff was coming up here, trying to look after it until I arrived in, you know, 1986 when I transferred up here from lake Washington as a park ranger eventually promoted on his park superintendent. I was on the area for 10 years by myself. So I did all the enforcement maintenance bookkeeping. All those types of tasks were necessary to run the park. But we had limited facilities or no facilities really. Then just act, you know, folks mainly hunted the area and we promised the public we would continue allow hunting here and we have in cooperation with Arkansas game and fish.

And you guys are one of the few parks that allow hunting. Right, that's correct. Well, right now, the only part that allows hunting, although we've considered other locations, hunting can be a good thing if you manage populations, it can be a bad thing to when it's abused. As I saw when I got up here, this area was the heaviest hunted area. Northwest Arkansas. When I arrived we had 100 every during opening weekend of modern gun deer season. We had 100 every 20 acres on this piece of which was intense. And we actually saw that in the degradation of the buck population here. We were only seeing spikes and forked antlers back then or four points. But since then we've integrated a with gaming fish Arkansas game and fish a permit program, 100 permit program. Both for our muzzle loading gun, dear seasons. And it took us believe it or not. 8 to 9 years to start seeing some nice bucks get back in the population. And actually now we're 25 years into that permit program, maybe 26. That really took us 15 years to really start reestablishing nice level population here. So so we've done a pretty good job with that.

And game fish is one of our partners along with the Natural Heritage Commission. They were this place was for the first time, this piece of property was first time in state's history that state agencies alone got together to manage piece of property is very common in the state with the U. S. Force Service and gaming fish and other agencies to get together federal and state. This was kind of a trending thing back then. And so today it's still managed by the title of the property sits with Arkansas Department of Parks Heritage and Tourism. And but still game officials involved in decision making processes and working with us. And now Heritage, back then was a separate agency. Under the governor's recent reorganization. Heritage is part of our agency. So Parks Heritage and Tourism where it used to be Parks and Tourism. Okay, all right. And that way, I guess doing that and aligning all of you guys together, makes it a little easier for everybody to work together. It does. We've always had a great working relationship and even I mentioned the Nature Conservancy, they've been instrumental with us trying to help us manage the property over time as they could. You know, we feel like believe or not, the Nature Service, we really didn't exist in the state of Arkansas till this piece of property was acquired.

And I say that they didn't exist. They didn't have an office here and as a result of purchasing this property and be involved in holding it. They opened office in Little Rock. And of course now they have a, the Ozark office in Fayetteville as well. But so this, this project was the impetus for the nature service. You to really move forward in the state of Arkansas, makes it another unique aspect of this piece of property. And again, it's a little over 12,000 acres here. It's the largest landholding Benton county, 23% of state parks land sits on this one piece of property. And when we say it's the largest park, that's what we mean. As far as land based, it's definitely not the largest when it comes to facilities. You know, we have other larger facilities Dougray Lake Grey Resort, State Park, Patti, jean, mount magazine of course. And one of our more popular, busier parks locally in Northwest Arkansas Devil's Den, which most folks know we do have with our springs here locally in Northwest Arkansas Prairie Grove, Lake Fort Smith, just south of Fayetteville between Favorite Enforcement. So we do have some other state parks up here as well. Yeah. And you know, it's almost like, and you were, you were saying before we started recording that this is like one of the best kept secrets to like a lot of people don't really know about it and it's really not that far away.

I drove from the east side of faith. They'll uh, straight down 4 12. I took a left and kept driving straight north and you get here pretty quickly. It's amazing. A lot of folks are very from Earth, War Eagle Mill and have visited the mill. They don't realize that unless you're coming out of the faithful Springdale, that route you came up out of Spring Valley or on 303 there as you're coming out of Rogers. Are you coming from the Huntsville side? Eureka side? You drive right through the park, I mean with 12,000 acres, Highway 12 bisects the property. So a lot of folks don't know it even though it's signed and we have some beautiful entrance signs, don't realize they're within the state park because of that major highway thoroughfare through there. But yes, it's really been a kept, a well kept secret. And I say that it's just because we haven't had a lack, we've had a lack of facilities here and now with our visitors center that we opened up here in May of 2000 and nine gave us a focal point finally where we could get, you know, visitors in to see the facilities and and learn more about the park. And then we've expanded. Our education program is, our staff has expanded as well. So we're doing a lot more education, particularly school systems and partnership programs, family oriented programs here.

Most of those are free of charge, unique programs that we have as well and workshops. We do kayak workshops and sunset tours and eagle watches on our, on Beaver Lake working with the Corps of Engineers. So we've got quite a diversity here. Yeah. And it's almost like, I mean if people know about it, they can come out and take advantage of it and participate. And then of course on the website you can find out more information about that. That's correct. And not only Arkansas state Park website, but we're very fortunate here. We have a friends organizations, support group, the Friends of Hobbs and it's it an excellent website as well. We can manipulate that many times quicker than our state park page to get updates when we have closures or trails which recently with the snow we had, we closed many of our multi use bike trails because of the snow, but we also update our interpretive programs there much quicker. So yeah, please. You know the Friends of Hobbs, there is a great location for you to go to find out more information. Get park brochures, trail maps, those kind of things as well. Besides the state park web page. Yeah. And and we'll be sure to put all that in the show notes so people know where to go to get that additional information.

So I'd like to kind of back up a little bit and just talk about, you know, because of, you know, this is a big hunting area and what is the diversity of animal life here on how state park it's quite diverse believe it or not, we do have challenges the roadways we have on the, whether it be state highways or county roads kind of outside of white tail movement, deer movement restrict some of the movement of some of the species. You know, they don't like to get near traffic ways or unfortunately many of the animals get hit on the roadway. I picked up a groundhog or woodchuck day before yesterday got hit on the roadway, which is sad, but that's part of progress and, and it does limit some of those species that try to live near the roadways across as well. But we've got all the major species except some of the big carnivores like black bears. We do have a black bear moved through the every once in a while, but again, residential development around us, they like to have a lot of space. And I think everybody knows the black bear program what you know, or can be used to be known as the bear state and unfortunately limit quite a bit of demise early on in game and fish reintroduce the species.

And as a result now it's been known as one of the most recognized in the reintroduction of a large males, our large mammal species in the United States, if not north America. So as a result of that, we have a booming black bear population. So usually after, you know, they come out of hibernation to spring. The young males are driven trying to find their own home range because the dominant males bores or push them out. So they wander through the area trying to see if they can find a habitat they can live in. And more importantly, probably find a female friend is probably their main focus, but they generally most of time they move on. We've had some cubs in the area, which is unusual and we do believe we have some in some of our more remote areas, but in the main section or most of the park, particularly the west side, south side, that they're just moving through the area. Okay, I got you, I got you. So when you mentioned earlier about the investment that was made to purchase, this was it was this land owned by one person or it was at the time when we the state purchases Citizens purchase. It was owned by Roscoe Hobbs and mr.

Hobbs had a timber and thai company or tying timber company where he harvested the trees off the property. And he was, as we understand from the history, a selective harvester, he didn't clear cut. And again, as far as we know, no mechanized machinery had been used on this property. Everything been hauled off by oxen mule. If there was, it was very limited laden before the state acquired it. Prior to him, Mr Peter Van winkle owned the property and his subsequent relevant the Blackburn family. He was the first one really to settle on the area and start using it as a business. Unfortunately, Mr Van winkle harvested this had one of the best stands of short leaf pines, you in the entire county on the southeast corner and he harvested everything he did do clear cutting, so there wasn't much left. So everything we've got on the track as 2nd and 3rd generation growth, you know, trying to survive after that timber harvest. Matter of fact, he exhausted the timber that he had to move on. But he was believe we have a historical site, one of our trails, Van his Van winkle historical trail and it has quite a bit of history on the trail tells you about Mr Van winkle and his family and the business opportunity.

It's very popular trails ada accessible so it's barrier free. There's some panels down there talks to you about. You can see the old sawmill site where all this lumbering occurred. He actually lived down there had antebellum home down there as well. It was quite unique history during a tough time period. You can imagine mid 18 hundreds trying to survive. It also has a Civil War impact on a retreat from the battle. Pea Ridge soldiers spent their first night down the van winkle Hollow and Mr Van winkle had left the area because of the Civil war went to texas. But yeah so we've got quite a unique history in that regard, much less the natural resource aspect of this port. So sure encourage you to check out historic van winkle trail. So and I'm glad you mentioned that because it was funny I was reading a post that somebody had posted on on facebook recently. It was on some page where they were asking questions about can somebody give me the name of a state park that's got like 88 compliant trails. Where? And that's not very part. I mean it's not that it's not popular, it's just that a lot of state parks don't have 88 compliant trails. So so obviously you guys have some here.

We do. We actually have to besides the van winkle Trail which has got a grid or fine surface to it. But it can move, you can move a wheelchair bound, a restricted movement individual down through that trail. It's very popular. But we have one right here next to visitor center. To those are Plateau Trail, which is concrete, so it's a quarter mile stack loops. So you got a total of about a half mile and cover out there. It's more than a natural environment. And it's right here by the visitors center, right next to a brand new facility. We just finished an educational pavilion. You walked right by to get on the L. P. T. Trail. We called O. P. T. Froze Ozark Plateau Trail and that pavilion just finished construction. We're tying up some loose ends on it. But that facility are gonna be used. We call an education event because that's primary what's going to be used for when we get school groups in here. Several buses, school groups, we can accommodate them all in the visitor's center, particularly during their lunch breaks when they're with us all day. So that pavilion is going to be used for that but also can be rented have some limited rental uses on it, you know, some controls on what can be rented for. But that project wouldn't happen if it had been back to our friends of Hamas group.

They actually donated $200,000 towards that project of the 550 contract price on it. So we're very fortunate to have a group like that supporting us. Not only, you know, in small ways with our volunteer effort, they pay for their salary of our volunteer coordinator here are part time volunteer coordinator as well, although she's an employee of the state, they still reimburse the state for her salary. So we have some opportunities here. There are friends group provided most of our, many of our other state parks don't have those opportunities and we're very fortunate to have that group involved with us. Yeah, and I would say, I mean a lot of that comes out of the interests of people to either establish or encourage outdoor living and just the outdoor environment here in Northwest Arkansas, that's correct. You know, life is good here. We're very fortunate, blessed to appear and we're fortunate to have this piece of property that was saved by again by the citizens who were very conservation minded back then to try to make that happen. And if it wasn't for rex five, even spivey real estate was right down the highway, getting with game and fish and making them aware this probably is available, the state might not have acquired it.

And of course, it ultimately ended up with Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Parks, heritage and Tourism now, so we're very fortunate to have that in our backyard. And you're right, it's not far from, you know, you can be to Rogers the edge of the eastern edge of Rogers within 10 minutes from this park or less under the core, within 15 to 20. And this Faith in Springdale er and Ben Villar not far outside of that either. So this provides a buffer really, I mean, buffer. The lake, we are on the south side of Beaver Lake and we actually have around 26 miles of shoreline that we joined the US Army Corps of Engineers on Beaver Lake, so we provide a watershed buffer which helps our water quality in the lake by having this part here as well and not be developed all the way around. So it's an advantage in that regard, plus a wildlife sanctuary for that as well, you know? Yeah, that's absolutely right. And I know a lot of my listeners are going to be thinking about this, but can you talk a little bit about the mountain bike trails that you have here? You know, this is, this happens to be a big mountain bike area. I mean all of Arkansas is, and you know, we have a lot of people to thank for that, but I know that that people can, you know, have right in their backyards.

They have places that they can go, whether it's slaughter pin or some other areas. But I'd love for you just to kind of talk about what you guys have here. You bet you believe it or not. We've got about 54 miles of trail on this piece of property. Now we're probably maxed out our trail system that we need to have to at least allow wildlife to have some room to work as well. We began our trail building and we opened our first trail in 1990 began to construction 1989 and that was a hiking trail. Shadows, Hollow trail, mile and a half loop, very popular with many people, including educators and school Children. And then we bumped up to the Pigeon Ridge Trail, one of our more popular trails a year later and opened it up. It was our first contract trail in state parks. We've never paid anybody to build a trail in the past and we actually believe it or not. Tim merch was well known. Tim merch to wildlife photographer. I mean scenic photographer and writer of many pictorial guides and and hiking guides. Uh tim was building trails back then we hired him to build that trail. So that began, we got into the mountain biking business or the multi use trail business, I should say.

When we opened up the Hidden Diversity Trail, it was our first trail. It was all hand built. There's no machinery used on that trail and that opened up in 2000 and six. Right after the Van winkle Trail opened in 2000 and five, I became the second trail in northwest Arkansas Multi use trail. I might say multi use. We promised the citizens early on, we acquired the property, horseback riding was permitted up here except it was not controlled. So when I got assigned to the progress started seeing some of the problems we had with what was developed here, riding straight up and down hills, erosion problems. So we put the university trail is our first multi use trail here is hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use as well as 24 miles along it. Right. It's laid out. All these trails have been laid out of course by hand and built by hand, but we, a lot of it's built on the ridges are on the, just off the edge of the ridges. Or it does go down the valley. But any time you take a trail off the slope, you have to build a long contour. You have to make some deep bench cuts, which are physically demanding to build by hand back then.

So you'll see that a distinct difference between the Hidden diversity trail and our new Monument Trail, which is 18 miles on the east side of the property, universities on the west side of the property, you can tie them both together, you can ride on both together as well. So just in a year and a half ago, we were fortunate 2.5 years ago, we were fortunate to receive some funding through the new Arkansas Parks and rec foundation. It's a new foundation, the state, they're focusing on state parks right now. It's not a state Park Foundation, but it's a park and rec foundation are trying to improve from the trail opportunities and and fix some of our trail systems in state parks. They've got a contract down Devil's Den right now. Their initial interest and it continues to be right now is mountain biking. Thanks to a generous donation from the Walton Family Foundation that went to the Park and rec Foundation, we received $1.8 million here to build 18 more miles amount by trail with a tunnel under the highway, multiple cedar bridges. And that's that access to that new monument system as well as the university system can be accessed right off the visitor center.

We we uh that trail system was completed about a year and a half ago. Become very popular. Matter of fact, it has some downhills to it. All of its uh green and blue system, there's no black, it's not too difficult. All our trails are family oriented and there are some climbs to some of them on the university, but there are almost our trails are almost all our trails except for a little bit or loop trails, so you don't have to double back most of time, but you come out of the visitor center on the tunnel, connect or go to the downhills or Wolf Den loop and then you eventually can ride over on the karst loop and it's a nine mile loop, believe it or not, at the top rated loop, you know, for mountain bikers, very popular loop, it's absolutely beautiful. Takes you down close to Beaver Lake. We just are constructing a new parking lot over there to hold 22 cars in that lot. We just finished the pad last week, so we're hoping to have that open by mid april. So you have a parking area, you'll be able to park in, you know, a formal parking area. We have a brand new parking air. We just opened up $250,000 contract. State parks opened up right outside the entrance here to the visitor center and that's where we're directing all of our mountain bike users or monument trail users to parking that new area.

Once we this parking area here at the visitor center when schools in particularly or were busy during the busy season is parking area feels up, which is visitors to the visitor center, school groups. So we now have a designated spot for them and that's where the new trailhead for the monument trail system is. So yeah, it's kind of easy, easy and easy out. I mean it, I don't think a lot of folks realize how difficult has maintained trails, you know, they're, they're requires work to be done on them and particularly the rain we just recently had, yeah, we were just as before we even started this podcast, you had gotten a call from somebody that said a portion of the trail was washed out or something. So, and, and I'm to clarify that, I'm trying to figure out exactly where that person reported from, but because we don't always get good accurate reporting of course technology that helps with that when people drop pins on maps, that helps us tremendously saves us for searching from this. But I believe I'm interpreting that to be on the university trail down a little cliff, T creek and those that have written that trail, No, the big bridges down there, apparently some wash out down there. So we've got to get down and check that and see what the problem is. But there is a lot of work to maintain these trails systems believe it or not.

We do get the vestal, the vast majority users, we get our trails are hikers, equestrian use only makes up about 3% of our use, believe it or not. So and again, you know, I think the more of these trails get known, we were really slammed early on. Like I said, I think said that Devil's Den had the first mountain bike trail in the state of Arkansas and the universities trail system was the second followed by slaughter pen soon thereafter. So we've been in the multi use business for a while, but it is a challenge to maintain, particularly with the bike use. There's a lot greater impact obviously on the trails with bikes. And then a question, yes, there are foot traffic of course, but we've just been very fortunate here to have some good opportunities and folks help us try to take care of it. And obviously we need volunteers with that. And we haven't adopted trail program, which we could get folks involved in to help us maintain those trail systems. It's, it's more work than the average barrier thinks it is. I can imagine. So. Tell me, are there any unique aspects about this park that you might not find someplace else or like specifically? Are there any caves in the park at all?

We have. This park is is unique in regard to the fact that we're one of three karst areas in Benton County. The other one at Kase Springs, the other one at Bella vista Primary Carstairs, I should say. So if you're, if you're hiking or use any of our trail systems, we, you'll see across the bridge and as the rain we just got Now most are streams are flowing, but then in a few days you'll notice that streams gone. But you look down the creek and see that's back on the surface again. Karst means water soluble limestone. So much of our underbelly of this park is in a limestone layer that has eroded away and on the surface is church well, churches like your colander use at home, it just filters right through it. So that stream that was there and disappears and reappears. It's called a disappearing streams. We do have quite a few sinkholes on the property. We do have some caves, we do not, they're not caves of the average person would understand they're not like blanchard caverns or mammoth cave, they're small Crawley uncomfortable. We don't disclose locations because much like one of the caves of devils, then, you know, the public has really impacted that cave environment.

The species don't want to live in anymore. You know, so and so they're very fragile environments. Most of those environments take thousands or hundreds of thousands years to form formations and formations get broke off intentionally or unintentionally. So most of our case would not be attractive to the average person. They're tight Crawley, uncomfortable, have vertical drops, you know, those kind of things. So we try to keep those to ourselves and try to protect that resource from us. We don't have anything, he tells people keep out of them, but we sure don't tell folks where they are. But right now unique was that's a unique environment force Karst, I think the best time to come out here and explore and hike or whatever you're gonna, your recreational activity is is right after rainfall. If the trails are open and most are hiking trails will always be open to see the waterfalls that are occurring. We don't have a, you know, petty jean cedar falls or anything monstrous of that size. But right now a lot of those bluffs shelter type limestone, outcrop waterfalls will be flowing beautifully. The creeks will be flowing, but they did a day like today, perfect day to day, perfect day after the rain we had over the weekend, you know, friday and last yesterday.

And when I made around earlier this morning, I saw several non bike folks on bike trails. I'm sure that's what they're out doing is looking at the waterfalls. So yeah, it's, it's a, it's a great time to be out before it gets too hot and at springtime I love to personally hike in the winter or exploring the winter. You can see a lot more, particularly the snow we had on the ground. Now we'll more likely close our multi use trail systems but we're going to leave are foot trails open for that. So come out when I got first to get signed here, that's how I learned the property was to get out in the wintertime has walked the ridge tops, exploring nothing says you can't walk and explore around here and get off trail if you want to. The problem is you got to know what, you know, you can get lost out here pretty easy. So yeah, so you need to try to stick to that, but obviously the hunting public does that all the time. Yeah, and there are ours too. I mean the park is not open 24 7. Right? That's correct, yes. We close all our trails and most everybody's aware we have a gate system here that many parks don't have, but all our trails are closed at night and that avoids folks staying out too late, getting lost having an accident if riding a bike, you know, at night, you know, when that happens that obviously calls in resources force, you know, whether it's our own staff or local fire departments, people that have to respond to that incident, you know, unfortunately because maybe somebody didn't use right judgment or maybe their skill levels that that capable of doing that, there's a lot of people are capable at night of course.

But when you have an injury or an accident like that, that puts other people at risk as well. So we try to avoid that. Do you put on a training to like learn how to hike properly? We occasionally have workshops that we uh have on backpacking or we have guided hikes so you can get that kind of direction as well during a guided hike. But you know again we have some unique workshops here, whether it be burning workshops or history. One of our popular events is called the Friends of Hobbs Speaker series and that speaker series usually occurs on a sunday and maybe once or twice a month and draws a big crowd to learn more about the resources on the property. We're kind of the flagship park for resource management because we are so big and plus we have a consumptive use, you know that in being hunting about the only other place we have a consumptive resource uses a crater of diamonds. State Park where you're able to hunt for diamonds and keep what you file right. Most state parks of preservation areas where you you know not conservation areas as you notice in our name were called Hop State Park Conservation Area.

And that's because of our joint management plus we allow hunting and some other activities but otherwise rocks, flowers, animals outside of hunting are all protected and most are state parks as they are here. Of course we have the one exception of hunting. So we asked you not to be picking the flowers. Somebody else needs to be, you know what they want to see those flowers. And we're getting into the spring season where that's gonna be happening again. Right? But we try to do some unique stuff here. We're improving old glades, pocket glades where cedars have encroached upon those glades and that doesn't allow the species that were living there. We we started the first fire program and state parks occurred here. So we burn our property. We're in the middle right now just trying to hope the rain stops and drives up so we can get two units burn. And I'm talking larger units 550 acres, one the other 1, 700 acres. These are controlled burn, controlled burns, prescribed fires. Yes. And we're very particular about how we manage them, how we prepare form. And again, you know, the were on the Ozark plateau. So, uh, you know, the, this land didn't look like this at one time, our forefathers obviously impacted both animal species as well as timber harvest.

This was a wide open forced at one time with a lot of grass and wildflowers between the trees. And you could ride a horse and wide open areas that's hard to do in our Ozark forced anymore. And that's the purpose of fire. And I know folks saw a lot of smelled a lot of smoke last week, particularly from burning in the, in the organization for steven down as far as the Washington National force reached up here, But the purpose of that has tried to bring the force back to its natural state, which had been impacted by again, by our forefathers. So thinning the timber out the understory, trying to let the sunlight get to the bottom of the soil, burning the leaf debris litter off the bottom. That's why we try to burn when it's very dry, but controllable that exposes the soil and there's a seed bank down there that hasn't been exposed for decades. Not you hundreds of years. So getting that leaf litter off their allows the sun hit it. And then we were and some of our burns, we're seeing flowers growing in the middle of force I've never seen before in my career since I've been here. So yeah, you really, sometimes you don't know what's just right below the surface. That's correct whether you're walking underneath it and that's why we're very protective here.

We do. We don't have mostar restrooms we have at our trail head, you may notice they're vault type restrooms. We don't have septic systems on them, so we collect the waste and we pump it out frequently. So that's that sewage does not go out into the car system as well to try to protect that ground underneath us. And that geological areas saying with all our facilities, were very careful on how we manage it. And the systems we put in place here at the visitors center, we have a drip system instead of a standard septic system trying to protect that geological layer underneath is called referred to as course. And the species that live down there, some of those live in darkness their entire life, they never see the light of day. And so we can have a tremendous impact on that underground area if we don't protect it. And yeah, and again, I think if most folks that come out see don't always know what this place used to look like because if we weren't around then, right. So we only got records of that. So I'm hoping if we can continue our burning program and we've been very difficult to do the last few years because of the weather in the wintertime. We can bring this place back to what it looked like at one time. Wow, I tell you guys are off to a good start.

That's for sure. And hopefully with at the time of recording this, we're all waiting with bated breath for this pandemic to be over. So we can kind of get back to some normalcy. And I know with, with all of the outdoor options that you have here, people are starting to explore those now. So we really appreciate everything and all the efforts that you and your staff are doing to make this such a great place to come visit. So with that said, what's the, but if people want to learn more about the park, what's the easiest way for them to do that? Would you direct them to the state website or to the Friends of Hobbs Park? I would say review both. I mean the friends site where we've got a little more leniency or the friends organization does to put stuff on that page. But you know, you need to start off with maps and understand the layout of the property and and what your interest is. And we have what we call park information brochure, which is our main brochure showing all the facilities. Then we have trail maps that break the trail systems down if you're interested in that. Yeah, we're looking forward to uh, you know, getting covid behind us like everybody else. Our trail systems have been spiking during covid because folks have a little more free time, are making free time to get out and use them.

And we're happy for that as well. But we sure missed our educational program or interactive exhibits at the visitors center. Some of the things we do with our guests and our visitors that we haven't been able to do, and I think that's coming back. We also have on our state park page. Now we've always had campsites on our pigeon roost trail backpacking campsites on the pigeon roost trail. But we just went just a couple weeks ago, uh, live on reservations for those campsites, as well as a brand new set of six camp areas camping spots on the karst loop. It's the first bike camping in Northwest Arkansas. You actually can ride your bike in or hike in uh and camp at these sites and they've got quite unique structures over them, uh, sculptures, I would describe them just as the trailhead does up here at the visitors center. Uh, those sites are online at our State Park website that you can reserve them now and there's a fee associated with them because there's a maintenance costs with that. But both those new, uh that new campaign area on the Karst loop of on the Monument Trail as well as the pigeon roost are available for reservation now and we're getting quite a few calls on it.

Oh, good, good. Well, yeah, we'll make sure that everybody has all this information in the show notes and, and uh, and can connect if they want to call up here to just ask any questions or inquired what's the number to call? Numbers 479789 5000. U. 789 5000. Pretty simple. And we've got a staff here. If you've never been to the visitor center, you need to and particularly after we get exhibits open back up where you can get involved in cR programming, please come up and see us. We've got a great staff. Uh, there's about 13 of us that operate here full time and part time. And then we've got a cadre of volunteers that help us. We couldn't do without our volunteers where they're maintaining bird feeders are given educational programs are adopted trail program on the trail. We were very much depend on our our volunteers to assist us. But we've got a great staff here. They're very knowledgeable and be glad to help you answer your questions. You may have their, I know most health code technology wise go to the web page, but there's something you're not sure about. Always call and ask first. Uh huh. That's right. And, and you know, a lot of questions we've been getting lately as our shooting range.

We had a public shooting range that closed down april of 2019 because we had a safety issue. We're finally about a month away from finishing that contract. So that brain should be opened up by the around the first of May when the contract is completed. And those that have used it in the past, believing that we had 8 to 12,000 people use that range annually. We collect four ton of lead out of that range that we recycled and ink on the environment. Well, we're going to a new, different style of folks who have used in the past will see there's not a capture system down there anymore. We're gonna be shooting directly into the Berm that was the backstop to the capture system and then we're gonna, there's an ability to do this. Now that wasn't when we opened that facility where we're going to have a wreck. Lemaitre come on site will tear the burn down, reclamation the lead back out of it and rebuild the burn. So those that have used the shooting range will be able to do that. Now it was originally built for long guns, although people used for pistols, you know, as well. But unfortunately the first target is 25 ft away because again, it was designed for rifles. Our goal was to try to ensure sportsmen are more accurate in there shooting.

Absolutely. And it's only 100 yard range. So if you're thinking you're going to cite in for going out west, it was intended only for here, So, but folks do use it for pistols, they just have to work together on it. You can't bring your own, you have to bring a paper or cardboard targets, only nothing else. And wooden clothes pins, we provide the standards for you down there and and hopefully that'll be open back up again. So it's a, there's no range masters, so it's self policing. So we ask you to be very careful. You know, again, that's a lot of people using it annually. So that's so folks that have been using it for years now, see there's going to be changed down there and hopefully they'll understand what the changes and how we're managing it differently now. Yeah, absolutely, and I'm glad you mentioned, that was one thing that I did want to bring up because I know that that some people would have an interest about taking advantage of that. Plus you can go to a shooting range and a beautiful statement. That's correct. So can't beat so and it's free right now. Okay, that's even better. Yeah, Yeah, awesome. Well, you know Park Superintendent Clippinger, I really appreciate you taking time to meet with us today. Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to to connect with us and share a few stories about Hobbs State Park and what you guys are hoping to do as you move forward in the future.

You're quite welcome glad to do that when we're here to help. So let us know what we can do to make your experience very good here. Absolutely, thank you very much. Well folks, that's another episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast to learn more about us or to read or download the show notes from today's episode visit I am Northwest Arkansas dot com. You can also listen to this podcast and sign up for our free newsletter to keep up with us and all things in W. A. Sign up today. You can subscribe to the I. M. Northwest Arkansas podcasts wherever you listen to it and please consider rating and reviewing us on apple podcast. Obviously our podcast come out every monday. Well not obviously, but I'm just reminding you that they do every monday without fail. The podcast comes out, I'm your host, Randy Wilburn. We'll see you back here next week for a new episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast signing out Peace. We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere That great podcast can be found for show notes or more information on becoming a guest visit.

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123 - Hobbs State Park is the Crown Jewel of Northwest Arkansas Parks
123 - Hobbs State Park is the Crown Jewel of Northwest Arkansas Parks
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