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New Pinnacle Mountain State Park art stirs up conversation about ‘Natural State’ title

In World
May 10, 2024

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Natural State is a title that Arkansans don’t take lightly. For years, politicians, non-profits and individuals have invested in State Parks to preserve the beauty that lies beyond the trees.

However, one of the latest changes to Pinnacle Mountain State Park is disrupting the peace between those hiking the trails and the people in charge.

An art sculpture was installed just over a month ago at the lookout on the East Quarry Trail. Some people are extremely upset about it, saying it takes away from the natural beauty of the state.

“Why? Why have they put this here?” Pulaski County hiker Sara Toki said.

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The sculpture atop the East Quarry Trail is just one of three in the park. The others are nestled along the trail. As news of the sculpture circled social media, thousands joined in on the fight.

One petitioner wrote that “This art disrupts the state of the park” while another commented “This piece has no place on a natural trail.”

Within days, signatures racked up on a petition to get the statue removed. The number of signees now stands at a little more than 3,800, though there is still no word from the state.

Talks about the sculpture began in January. Minutes from the State Parks Commission say the pieces were a part of a donation from the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation to help “attract a new group of visitors to monument trails and parks.”

According to the State Park website, monument trails are “seamlessly woven into the beautiful landscape to highlight the unique terrain, historical landmarks, and scenic vistas.” They’re most popular for mountain biking and funded by the same foundation that paid for the sculptures.

State Parks Communication Director Shealyn Sowers says the art project aligns “with the park’s mission of conserving the natural environment and fostering education about our relationship with it.”

That feeling is lost on some park visitors, though.

“It feels really out of place, an eye sore,” Toki said. “I know that’s kind of harsh but that’s how I feel.”

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Some hikers say they fear this is only the beginning.

“I worry about Petit Jean, Mount Magazine, Mount Nebo,” Toki said. “Leave them alone.”

In Arkansas Code, State Parks were created to “protect and preserve its original habitat and the native beauty of the flora, fauna, and wildlife.” Hiking through the park, sign after sign can be seen supporting that overarching idea.

Some park visitors the controversial piece compliments the nature around it, while others describe it as modern art or a mishappen eyes sore.

“There are plenty of ways to enhance our state. Our parks don’t need to be enhanced they need to be left alone,” Toki said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KARK.

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