Amendment 75 Continues to Help Arkansas State Parks

Zoie Clift
Many enjoy our state parks
and over the years a tax passed in 1996 has been a lifeblood for them. The 1/8¢ conservation sales
tax (known as Amendment 75) takes care of and maintains many projects within
the state park system.  
So how has the tax affected
our state parks?
“Thanks to Amendment 75 we
have one of the finest state park systems in America,” said Greg Butts,
director of the Arkansas State Parks.

According to Butts, prior
to the passage, the state parks were in peril.  In 1996 there was over $177 million in repair, renovation,
and improvement needs across a system on the brink of addressing the
possibility of closing facilities and parks.

“As an example, park
superintendents had been painting over rotten wood for too long…not a cure
that addresses a backlog of major repair and renovation needs,” Butts said. “To
date over $125 million reflected in hundreds of major renovation and
improvement projects have been completed throughout the park system…a system
that all Arkansans can be proud of.”

“It [the tax] is
undoubtedly one of the greatest things the citizens of Arkansas have ever done
for their state parks,” added Joe Buckley, superintendent at Historic
Washington State Park, which preserves and
showcases the town of Washington’s architecture, history and pioneer culture.

According to Buckley, the
tax has funded the restoration and preservation work on many historical
landmarks in the park including the 1836 and 1874 courthouses, the Sanders
House, and the Block-Catts House.

The tax also had a huge
impact on the Crater of Diamonds State Park, based in Murfreesboro. “It was responsible
for the Diamond Discovery Center, Diamond Springs Water Park, and the day use
pavilion,” said Justin Dorsey, superintendent of the park. “Also the Guard
House and mineshaft renovations were funded through Amendment 75 monies.”

Lake Ouachita State Park,
as well as a host of other parks, have also benefited from the tax.  “It has been one of the most
influential things for us to dress the park up to match what we want it to be,”
said Lee Howard, superintendent of the park.

According to Butts, the
state park system hosts around nine million visitors a year and impacts the
state’s economy by over $250 million annually. “When one looks at Amendment
75’s cost collectively for all of the agencies, Arkansas’s natural and cultural
heritage is being preserved and passed on to the next generation for an
additional six cents on a $50 purchase,” he said. “A small investment that
generates big returns.”

As to a breakdown of the tax,
the parks system receives 45 percent of the tax. The remaining money goes to
the Game and Fish Commission (45 percent), the Department of Arkansas Heritage
( nine percent) and the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission ( one percent).

“Since the creation of the
Arkansas State Park system in 1927 and prior to the “1/8%”, the state parks
suffered from under funding and a roller coaster of good times and more often
hard financial times,” said
Butts. “The “1/8”, now Amendment 75 to Arkansas’s constitution, will help
guarantee that Arkansas state park programs, facilities, and their natural,
historical and cultural resources are made available for Arkansans and their
families yet to come.”




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