Last fall, Missouri voters overwhelming reapproved Missouri’s parks, soils and water sales tax by its highest margin ever, with 80 percent of voters supporting the initiative.

This tax is the primary source of funding for Missouri’s nationally acclaimed state parks and historic sites.

An economic impact study found that visitors to Missouri state parks produced an overall economic impact of $1.02 billion and supported more than 14,000 Missouri jobs last year. That is terrific!

Missouri lawmakers have also made a significant investment in the existing state parks and historic sites that make up the park system. In 2014 and 2015, approximately $18 million was invested in improving and maintaining facilities in the park system.

I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of visiting or seeing photos from our state parks. I’ve traveled all of the southern states and most of the midsection of America, and from my experience, Missouri has the best state parks, and state parks management system, in the country.

And if the word wasn’t out already, it sure is now.

While fishing, camping/kayaking and hunting are the backbone of the Traveler, publishing stories about beautiful outdoor locales in Missouri isn’t far behind.

In this issue alone, Dana Sturgeon talks about the fascinating history behind Markham Springs Recreation Area (with awesome photos, as usual) while Michael Kircher, a new staff writer for the Traveler, details his hikes of Missouri’s three new state parks — Ozark Mountain State Park in Taney County, Eleven Point State Park near Alton, and Bryant Creek State Park in Douglas County — over a three-day span in early January.

And that’s not all. Michelle Turner writes about escaping her “windowless life” and taking a short 10-minute drive to Robertsville State Park, site of her daughter’s first camping trip many years ago.

Look for stories and pictures from two more state parks that just officially opened in January — Don Robinson State Park and Jay Nixon State Park — in our March issue.

If you have a state park experience you’d like to share, please email me or mail us a letter, along with photos if you have them, and we’ll be happy to share it with our readers.

We have lots of photos of these state parks on our website. If you’re a subscriber and haven’t received log-in information to our site, please give us a call and we will get it set up for you. All paid subscriptions to the Traveler include free access to our full website, which features more stories and photos that aren’t found in our monthly print edition, and I want to make sure you’re getting full value for your subscription.

If there’s a state park you want more information about, or that you’d like to see featured in the Traveler, please let me know that as well.

Many of us spend our cold winter days planning trips for spring, summer and fall. I hope you will consider visiting some of our state parks.

Each has its own interesting history and story to tell, and hopefully it will become part of the story of your life.

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Here are some notable calendar dates this year for Wappapello Lake:

• April 22-23 — Old Greenville Black Powder Rendezvous.
• May 6 — Wappapello Woodland Expo.
• May 13 — Kids to Parks Day.
• June 3 — Kid’s Fun Day.
• June 10 — Lawn mower races.
• June 24 — Water Fest.
• July 1 — Independence Day celebration.
• Sept. 1-4 — Labor Day Weekend 25 Mile Community Yard Sale.
• Sept. 16-17 — 26th Annual Old Greenville Days.
• Nov. 24-Dec. 30 – 25th Annual Festival of Lights Auto Tour.

(Jimmy Sexton is owner and publisher of the River Hills Traveler. He can be reached at (800) 874-8423, ext. 1, or jimmy@riverhillstraveler.com.)