HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas — National Park College (NPC) named Bill Barnes as the 2023 Outstanding Alumnus during the annual Employee Recognition Day celebration this month.
Barnes serves as president of the Tri-Pennant Family of Resorts, which includes Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, Iron Mountain Lodge and Marina, and Self Creek Lodge and Marina. He graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1966. He received his Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) training and certification from NPC, then Quapaw Technical Institute, in 1975 and worked as a volunteer EMT on the only county-operated ambulance in Montgomery County. He attended the University of Arkansas, Oklahoma State University, and Forest Park College in St. Louis, Missouri, for principal training in hotel and restaurant management.
Barnes explained that he and a classmate drove to campus together to take night classes in 1975 because Montgomery County’s volunteer ambulance service needed volunteers. “And to watch this school evolve from there, I think it was Garland County Community College at that point, to this magnificent campus that’s growing. I know you’re proud. I know you love where you are, but I want to tell you there are a whole bunch of folks out there as proud as you are about what’s happening here,” said Barnes.
Barnes co-founded the Joplin Volunteer Fire Department in 1979 and continues as chief. The department provides emergency medical and fire response on Lake Ouachita, as well as covering the eastern end of Montgomery County. The department runs approximately 130 calls per year, 75 -80% of which are medical calls. He said he continues to use his EMT training and is thankful for the education he received from the College in 1975.
“I love this school. I have had the pleasure of working with my team at the resorts, some of them over 45 years now, and most of them over 30. And watching you all walk up here to take your five, 10, 15, 20, 25-year awards, that’s what makes this school wonderful. That’s what makes it passionate. I’ve gotten to work with some wonderful folks since they showed up, and watched them grow and evolve here. I’m so darn proud of what you’ve accomplished with your team,” said Barnes.
Barnes’ father, Hal Barnes, started Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa in 1955. He developed Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa from a small fishing outpost into one of the top resorts in Arkansas. He has been active in the management of Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa since 1971.
Barnes built and developed Iron Mountain Lodge and Marina in 1978 with his partners David and Vickie Egleston. He built and developed Self Creek Lodge and Marina on Lake Greeson in 2001 with Jim Mishler.
Barnes also developed Harbor East, the only privately-owned condominium development on Lake Ouachita with 108 condominiums, and Harbor South, a private residential development adjacent to Mountain Harbor Resort and Lake Ouachita.
Barnes serves on several boards, councils, and commissions. He is a member of the Office of Outdoor Advisory Committee appointed by Governor Sanders, the Natural State Initiative Council, and the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission. He is a member of the Leadership Hot Springs Alumni and a graduate of the 1982 class. He was a charter member of the airport commission for the Mount Ida-Bearce Airport, the Joplin United Methodist Church, a Coxswain Certificate and Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 15-9, founder of the Montgomery County Military Museum, a broker of Mountain Lake Real Estate, a member of the Arkansas Forestry Commission Boat Committee, and founder of the Statewide Annual Arkansas Forestry Commission for Fire Boat Training.
Barnes has been honored with several awards including the 2001 Tourism Person of the Year, Arkansas Hospitality Association (AHA) Gold Key Award for Lodging, Arkansas Times Readers Choice Award – “Best Marina” for nine years in a row, 1999 Hernando DeSoto Award, 1999 AHA President’s Award, the 1999 Inductee into the Arkansas Hospitality Hall of Fame, 1990 Recipient of the Silver Cup for Tourism, 1990 Best Friend Award from the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, and the 1985 Employer of the Year Award from the Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s wonderful. I don’t deserve it. There’s so many people that have done so much good from this school. But to receive it, especially for something that was done so many years ago to help our little county, and to listen to the tenure in there, the love and the passion of the people that are in this school, it’s like coming home. It’s like coming to another neighborhood of where I grew up,” added Barnes.