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Logoly State Park throws in dash of education

By Jack Schnedler

This article was published July 3, 2014 at 1:56 a.m.

Logoly State Park, opened in 1978, is Arkansas’ first state park dedicated to environmental education.

LOGOLY STATE PARK -- It's true that "education" pretty much rhymes with "recreation." But can a state park focused on learning also provide a bunch of leisure-time fun? In summer, no less, when school is out and brainwaves are tuned low?

Logoly State Park, near Magnolia, does its best to provide a positive answer to that question. Opened in 1978 as Arkansas' first environmental education park, it encompasses 368 forested acres in Columbia County, 130 miles southwest of Little Rock.

Tourism developed at the site in the late 19th century, probably after Caddo Indians introduced white settlers to 11 local springs with purported healing powers. Visitors drank from and bathed in these Magnolia Springs. By the start of the 20th century, the community had two hotels, the Duke and the Mendenhall. Cotton Belt trains stopped nearby to drop off tourists, who rode to the hotels in wagons.

Magnolia Springs also became a gathering spot for the area's Methodists, who built a bandstand and pavilion. By the 1930s, however, the springs' popularity had faded. Three families who owned the land -- the Longinos, the Goodes and the Lyles -- leased it in 1940 to the Boy Scouts. The camp was named Logoly (pronounced "Low-ga-lie") by linking the first two letters of the three surnames.

Camp Logoly closed in 1967 when the Scouts moved to another site. Owner Hugo Longino then asked Arkansas officials about making the land a state park. In 1974, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy bought the property, which was sold to the state for the park that opened in 1978.

Logoly was designated from the get-go as an environmental education state park, only the third in the United States. It continues to operate a variety of workshops and other programs for field trips by elementary and high school students. Discovery Day Camp sessions are scheduled for a number of weekdays in July and August, with preregistration required.

Exhibits at the park's visitor center, some of them interactive, are designed to engage and enlighten adults as well as youngsters. The cross section of an active beehive shows these industrious insects at work. An information panel asks: "Why do bees dance?" The answer: "Bees dance to announce a new food source. The 'dance' tells the direction, distance and quality of the nectar or pollen."

A display board titled "Animal Senses" peppers viewers with an assortment of how-about-that facts. For example, "Bats always turn left when they leave their caves." "The sleepiest animals are armadillos, sloths and opossums. They spend 80 percent of their lives sleeping or dozing." "Insects outnumber humans 1,000,000 to 1." That last one has the makings of a scary science-fiction movie.

Three relatively short and nonstrenuous hiking trails give visitors a look at local flora and fauna along with a bit of exercise.

Crane's Fly Trail features a boardwalk over the park's pond. Rolling hills and a woodland stream give a glimpse of the West Gulf Coastal Plain environment of southern Arkansas. Spring Branch Trail links Crane's Fly Trail with Magnesia Springs Trail, locale of the mineral waters that attracted early visitors.

A sign on the way to the visitor center asserts: "The living laboratory of Logoly helps us understand that even the smallest parts of a habitat are important to maintaining the health of this natural community."

That has a didactic ring, no doubt, with a firm educational tone. Happily, the lively tone of exhibits in Logoly's visitor center and the fresh-air pleasure of the three trails give a good time spark to the message.

Logoly State Park is located six miles north of Magnolia on Columbia County Road 47 just off U.S. 79 near the McNeil highway junction. Visitor center hours from May through September are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission to the visitor center and hiking trails is free of charge. There are fees for the day camps.

For more information, call (870) 695-3561 or visit ArkansasStateParks.com/logoly.

Weekend on 07/03/2014

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