Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village is one of a number of Arkansas sites National Geographic will conduct free workshops for the Mississippi River National Geographic Geotourism Program to learn more about the geotourism project and how to upload information to the Mississippi River geotourism website.

The workshop at Lakeport Plantation will be held on July 17 at 5 p.m. Lakeport Plantation is located at 601 Highway 142 in Lake Village.

The workshops will take place in every state along the River, beginning with Arkansas, to teach local folks how to be part of a global tourism effort under the National Geographic banner. Geotourism encompasses, agritourism, local cuisine, cultural tourism, sightseeing, eco-tourism, heritage tourism and native American cultural tourism. Any business or recreation provider, private or public is encouraged to attend.

The project will be traveling through Arkansas to kick off community outreach to identify the places along the river that are most respected and recommended by locals. The project seeks to contribute to the economic health of communities along the river by promoting Geotourism: tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.

A community-based nomination process is being used to create the National Geographic online interactive website of the region, covering one county wide on either side of the river as well as the entire Delta region from Illinois south.

Local residents and visitors are invited to nominate the landmarks, attractions, activities, businesses and events that define the region’s character and distinctive appeal. The public site nomination process starts this week for Arkansas with public forums and presentations in communities along the river, from Paragould to Lake Village to encourage nominations and community involvement. Nominations may be made at the Mississippi River geotourism website.

“Participation by local residents is critical to the project’s success,” said Robert Moore, Arkansas Highway Commissioner, “Our goal is to get nominations from across the region that identify the things people love best, those ‘must see’ places that might range from an incredibly beautiful hike to an atmospheric downtown area with local character.”

James Dion, Director Tourism Programs, National Geographic Maps said the National Geographic Maps Division is “pleased to have the opportunity to spotlight this region and, in doing so, support and sustain it as one of the treasured places on the globe. The website will celebrate the area’s abundant natural, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there.”

The website development process is driven by local people and is overseen by a regional committee of people and organizations from the area. The Mississippi River Geotourism Stewardship Council represents an assortment of organizations, representing community leaders, historians, river organizations, public lands managers, indigenous peoples, artists and tourism businesses. Geotourism websites have been published for the U.S. Gulf Coast States (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida), Bahamas, Newfoundland (Canada), Douro Valley (Portugal), Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia), Bocas del Toro and Roatan, (Panama, Honduras), Central Cascades (Oregon, Washington), Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia, Montana), Four Corners (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah) East Tennessee River Valley, Greater Yellowstone (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming), Lakes to Locks Passage (New York), Redwood Coast (California), Sierra Nevada (California).

Mississippi River Geotourism program is a joint effort of the Mississippi River Connections Collaborative (MRCC) and the National Geographic Society – The MRCC is an informal network of local, state, and non-profit organizations whose mission is, “to promote the magnificence and diversity of the Mississippi River as a national treasured landscape.” The MRCC is working to increase recognition of America’s Great River, enhance the existing resources, promote stewardship and sustainable practices, acquire funding for conservation, and ensure that all Americans can enjoy these assets in the future.

Locations for the workshops:

McGehee – July 17 at 1 p.m. Municipal Building, 901 Holly Street

Lake Village – July 17 at 5 p.m., Lakeport Plantation, 601 AR-142

Paragould – July 14 at 1 p.m. – Paragould Chamber of Commerce, 300 West Court Street

Jonesboro – July 14 at 7 p.m. – Arkansas State Museum

Blytheville – July 15 at 10 a.m. Delta Gateway Museum, 210 Main Street

Osceola – July 15 at 1 p.m., Chamber Civic Center, 116 N. Maple

Parkin – July 15 at 6 p.m., Parkin Archeological State Park, Hwy 60, 184N

West Memphis – July 16 at 9 a.m., MidSouth Community College, Marion Berry Building, Rm 136, 2000 West Broadway

Marianna – July 16 at 1 p.m., Mississippi River State Park, 2955 State Hwy 44

Helena-West Helena – July 16 at 7 p.m. Delta Cultural Center, 223 Cherry Street.