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Family of three says a vacation at Devils Den State Park turned into a nightmare

The family says Arkansas State Parks refunded her family the cost of their cabin rental, but their belongings are considered a total loss.

WEST FORK, Ark. — Kelley Barnes and her family checked into a camper cabin at Devil’s Den State Park on a Friday night. She says they had a great evening before waking up "in the middle of the night, itching and miserable. We did a couple of checks but didn't find anything, so we went back to sleep ... The next morning we were covered in bites and blisters. We did some more checking under the beds and the seams, and we found live bugs," Barnes recalled. 

Barnes says Arkansas State Parks refunded her family the cost of their cabin rental, but their belongings are considered a total loss.

"We left everything there, all of our belongings. We didn't bring anything home. We left our pillows, blankets, bedding, you know, everything. [There may be] talk of [getting a reimbursement] for some of that stuff, [but] 'm not sure yet. It's frustrating— we don't have a lot of money, and to put forth effort and money towards [a vacation] like that and come home with problems is disappointing," explained Barnes. 

Shea Lewis is the director of Arkansas State Parks, and he says "The state of Arkansas works closely with the Arkansas claims commission in incidences, such as this, or where guests or visitor's personal property is damaged or lost. And the claims commission will evaluate the claim and make a determination for possible reimbursement of their personal items."

Lewis confirms the bites are consistent with bedbugs and state parks have hired an exterminator to treat all five camper cabins at Devil’s Den. The camper cabin occupied by the Barnes won’t be rented out for at least two weeks.

"So right now our park staff has worked closely with the contractor to come out and exterminate any bugs that are in that cabin and adjacent cabins as well, and we've gone through the cabin, done a deep cleaning, and used pesticides to make sure that that we kill any pests that are in there. We've also superheated the cabin for three days, which is one of the most consistent ways that the industry addresses issues such as bedbugs. We've even replaced the wood bed frames with metal bed frames, replace the mattresses, done an alcohol treatment, and deep cleaned the exterior part of the building as well," Lewis said. 

As for the Barnes family, they say their discomfort from the bites will likely last a few weeks, and they’re hopeful it doesn't happen to anyone else.

"I just want action to be taken, so that families don't have to endure this kind of thing," Barnes said. 

Lewis agrees in a statement saying “When we think about an experience within an Arkansas state park, we want our guests to feel safe and comfortable during their stay. This is a departure from that, and we're taking all the steps that we need to to ensure it doesn't happen again."

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