Arkansas State Parks recently announced an agreement has been finalized with the miniature train concessionaire at Queen Wilhelmina State Park near Mena.
The State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission endorsed the paperwork at its recent monthly meeting and train owner Ronnie Wagner signed it, according to a news release.
“Queen Wilhelmina State Park has a strong connection to trains,” the release states. “A miniature train in front of the park, which is run by an independent vendor, has long been a seasonal attraction for visitors.”
An idea to turn the area into another type of recreational space was proposed in May. However, community members and park visitors made it clear they have “strong emotional ties to the miniature train and want it to stay,” the release adds.
In the late 19th century, the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad built a north-south line that traveled just below Arkansas’s 2,681-foot Rich Mountain. The railroad built a luxurious hostelry for train travelers to stay at during their journey and named it after the young Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands who was to be crowned in 1898. Over the years, it changed hands several times and finally became an Arkansas State Park in 1957.
The miniature train was built shortly after by the original concessionaire. Arkansas State Parks leases the land to Wagner, the current concessionaire. He owns and operates all the machinery and buildings on that piece of property.
Arkansas state parks and museums cover 54,400 acres of forest, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation facilities and unique historic and cultural resources. The system includes 1,100 buildings (including 183 historic structures), six National Historic Landmarks, a National Natural Landmark and 16 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.