BY MELANIE BUCK –
Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge on the awe-inspiring 2,681-foot Rich Mountain, Arkansas’ second highest peak, will reopen on July 1, 2015, following a $9.6 million renovation, according to State Parks Director Greg Butts. “The improvements to this lodge that was opened by the state of Arkansas in 1975 should receive rave reviews when it reopens,” said Butts. He noted the lodge will feature all new windows that will be larger to frame the views from Rich Mountain of the surrounding Ouachita Mountains. Butts emphasized, “Enjoying the panoramic scenery from the mountain is an important part of the Queen Wilhelmina State Park experience. Our visitors are going to enjoy the more wide open views from all the lodge’s public rooms, including the restaurant and all the guest rooms.”
Executive Director of Arkansas Parks and Tourism, Richard Davies is pleased with the final product of the enormous project. In a statement to Pulse Multi-Media he said, “This place is transformed. It is so much different than the old one because you can see out. It is very airy, it is very open, from the meeting rooms to the guest rooms and the lobby. It takes advantage of where you are. I think the architect, the staff, and the contractor have done a great job. The people will like Queen Wilhelmina Lodge.”
The exterior of the lodge features shingles and stonework. The lodge was expanded from 25,881 square feet to 37,029 square feet to include the addition of a new hearth room with wood-burning fireplace, two additional guest rooms increasing the total to 40, and more space within all the rooms. Two guest rooms on each floor at the west end include gas fireplaces and spa tubs. Three are barrier-free to meet the needs of visitors with disabilities. They include Queen, King, King with spa tub and gas fireplace, and King Suite choices.
The new larger rooms will be able to accommodate a multitude of guests and groups and many have already begun to reserve their rooms. As of Thursday, the Queen has already received registrations for 45 groups between July and December of this year. For perspective, it takes a reservation of 10 or more rooms to qualify as a group, equaling a minimum of 450 rooms that have already been reserved for the remainder of 2015.
The upstairs meeting facility increased in size and includes a balcony overlooking the gorgeous south view from the mountain. Public restrooms are located nearby.
An elevator was added to the lodge, as well as more stairwells. A wrap-around porch on the building’s south side will provide visitors with comfortable outdoor space to enjoy a cool breeze in a southern style rocking chair. A new porch was added at the west end and a new fire protection system covers the entire building.
Other improvements include a new energy efficient heating and air-conditioning system, energy saving lighting throughout, solar hot water, and other such features. A new laundry will serve the housekeeping staff.
The design consultant was The Borné Firm Architects P.A. of Little Rock, Robin Y. Borné AIA president. The architect’s consultants were Pettit and Pettit Consulting Engineers, Inc. of Little Rock (MEP), Engineering Consultants, Inc. of Little Rock (Structural), Hanson and McLaughlin Engineering, LLC of Little Rock (Civil), Development Consultants, Inc. of Little Rock (Landscape Architecture), Morris & Associates of Scott (Environmental), Grubbs, Hoyskn, Barton & Wyatt of Little Rock (Geotechnical), and Stellar Sun of Little Rock (Solar Hot Water System). TriMark Strategic of Coppell, Texas, was the consultant for the new kitchen. Jake Limberg of Arkansas State Parks, the park planner for Queen Wilhelmina State Park, developed the interior furnishings design.
Architect Robin Borné said, “We’re glad we had the chance to provide professional services for this project and to serve the people of Arkansas, they are the real heroes here. They passed Amendment 75 and it’s unbelievably important.”
Nabholz Construction Services of Conway was the general contractor completing this job.
The project was funded by Amendment 75, Arkansas’s Conservation Fund ($4,792,365), FY 12-14 grant monies from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council ($3,331,927), and State Parks Funds ($200,000). Furnishings and new kitchen equipment totaled $1,297,000.
Today’s lodge is the third hostelry to grace this same setting on 2,681-foot Rich Mountain. The first inn, opened in 1898 by the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (KCPG), was designed as a resort retreat for passengers on the line. The company spared no expense in constructing the luxurious hostelry of Victorian splendor. Since the KCPG was largely financed by Dutch interests, the resort was named in honor of the Netherlands’ young Queen Wilhelmina. Known as the “Castle in the Sky,” the inn closed in only three years.
The second Queen Wilhelmina inn was built by Arkansas State Parks and operated by the state of Arkansas from 1963 until a fire destroyed it in the fall of 1973.
Today’s Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge opened in 1975 to carry forward this lodging tradition on Rich Mountain. The just completed $9.6 million renovation of this facility is what will greet visitors and guests when the lodge reopens on July 1. To make reservations, visit Queen Wilhelmina.com or call 1-800-264-2477.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge is one of the four hotel-like lodges in the Arkansas State Park system. The others are historic Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge near Arkadelphia, and The Lodge at Mount Magazine in Mount Magazine State Park near Paris.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. In addition to the lodge, the 460-acre park includes a campground with 41 campsites and a bathhouse; picnic areas; trails; and a seasonal miniature train and mini-golf course. Park interpretive programs highlight Rich Mountain’s fauna and unique flora.
Jon Brown, Manager of Operations, Arkansas State Parks and Tourism, said, “The staff has worked tremendously hard to get this place open for the general public and they’ve done a great job. It’s an outstanding facility and I think everyone is going to enjoy it. It’s a showcase in the community and we are all impressed and proud to have it.”
Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts summed up the majesty of the lodge by saying, “I think what you see is a first class facility. It’s all about the beautiful views, about the special times, and special places like Queen Wilhelmina. We are continuing the hotel business here, now spanning three different centuries and here we are today. We’re in the memory business and the forever business. Folks come to state parks in the pursuit of happiness. In the constitution it talks about the pursuit of happiness and that’s what state parks are. We’re all busy, going 100 miles per hour and parks are a place to come reconnect with history, the natural environment, and outdoor spaces. It’s about special places, special times, and special people.”
The park is on Ark. 88 (Talimena National Scenic Byway) 13 miles west of Mena. [For an alternate route from Mena or during inclement weather, go six miles north on U.S 71, then travel nine miles west on U.S. 270, then go two miles south up Ark. 272.]
For additional information, contact: Greg Butts, director, Arkansas State Parks, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201; phone: 501-682-7743; email: email@example.com