Draft Ozark National Scenic Riverways Plan Draws Charges NPS Is Trying To Limit Access

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The Current (pictured) and Jacks Fork rivers that course through Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri lure paddlers. Marty Koch photo.

A pitched battle is under way over the future of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, one that goes to the heart of whether national parks are to be managed for the country's best interests, or for local interests.

At issue is the path the National Park Service is trying to chart for long-term management of the unit that was the very first in the nation designed specifically to protect a river system.

Proponents say the structure of the preferred alternative in the draft General Management Plan is long overdue and necessary to prevent further degradation of the 134 miles of the Jacks Fork and Current rivers that course through the rumpled, cave-studded, spring-gushing countryside of southern Missouri's Ozark Mountains.

Opponents, who include a freshman congressman from Missouri's 8th District, counter that the approach would convert "the vast majority of the park to a natural area where evidence of human use is minimal." From his perspective, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith maintains the park's preferred alternative would be devastating to area economies and continue what he sees as efforts by the Park Service to limit access to the forests and rivers within the National Riverways.

As with many of these debates in the National Park System, trying to filter the various viewpoints and rhetoric can be challenging. The debate at Ozark National Scenic Riverways is not unlike those at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, where the Park Service under court order implemented access restrictions to protect threatened shorebirds and endangered sea turtles, or at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, where the agency is mired in a legal battle over a commercial oyster operation in part of the seashore designated as official wilderness.

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ATV damage can be found in many areas of the national riverways. Friends of Ozark Riverways photo.

National Park Service management in general has been pilloried by some in the wake of the 16-day closure in October of the National Park System due to Congress's inability to agree on funding for the federal government, perhaps creating an atmosphere among some to figuratively jump on the agency.

Rep. Smith portrays his attack on the agency over the Ozark National Scenic Riverways' draft general management plan as one over the economic and recreational well-being of his constituents. And in some aspects he appears to be forging a divide between Missouri residents who long have turned to the two rivers for recreation and livelihoods, and all Americans who hold a stake in how the National Park System is managed.

"Generations of Missourians in our congressional district have enjoyed the Jacks Fork and Current Rivers. The rivers are also the engine that drives numerous small businesses. When bureaucrats in Washington try to restrict land and river usage for families and businesses, our district suffers," the congressman, born nearly a quarter century after the national riverways was authorized, wrote in a weekly letter to constituents in mid-November.

He also took to the floor of the House of Representatives to voice his opposition to the draft GMP.

When the idea for an Ozark Rivers National Monument was discussed in 1960, the picture painted was one of a wild and ancient mountain range with a human history 10,000 years old and a unique geology, one plumbed by hundreds of springs that daily gush hundreds of millions of gallons of clean, cold water into the rivers. Red wolves once roamed here, while pileated woodpeckers flit about the hardwood forests.

Here would be an area preserved for use of people—an opportunity to float the Current or the Jacks Fork or the Eleven Point, to watch the osprey at work, to try camping on a gravel bar, to test the boater's or fisherman's skill, to watch the Ozarks renowned fall colors pass by, or perhaps even just to loaf. Hiking along the riverbank or to some remote cave, sink, or site where man of yesterday lived; wandering through little known Powder Mill Cave or into spectacular Jam Up Cave; climbing down a shaded trail to magnificent Greer Spring—all of these and many other opportunities would be available to the visitor. A carefully developed interpretive program would add to his enjoyment and understanding of the area.

Protecting these rivers seemed a central driver behind the creation of the National Riverways. The enacting legislation opens by stating that, "for the purpose of conserving and interpreting unique scenic and other natural values and objects of historic interest, including preservation of portions of the Current River and Jacks Fork River in Missouri as free-flowing streams, preservation of springs and caves, and management of wildlife, and provisions for use and enjoyment..."

But over the years park officials have grappled with that mandate. Rowdy boaters, drunken behavior, camping illegally on gravel bars, and the preponderance of unauthorized trails woven into the parkscape -- 65 miles of unauthorized horse trails, for example -- have challenged the staff. Indeed, a root of the uproar over the draft management plan that is open for public comment through January 8 can be traced to how the Park Service has managed, or in some views mismanaged, the National Riverways that was authorized in 1964 and officially dedicated in 1972.

"Frankly, enforcement has been the biggest problem over the past 30 years," said Lynn McClure, who as director of the National Parks Conservation Association's Midwest Office is studying the draft GMP and preparing comments on it. “It’s not an easy park to patrol. No. 1, it’s got a lot of linear miles to it on two sides of a river. You multiply that park boundary one way by two. It’s not easy to patrol.

"What’s happened I think over the last 30 years, the norm has become something that really wasn’t allowed at the park, in terms of what size of a boat you’re supposed to run on the river, in terms of pulling vehicles, cars, trucks, whatever into the middle of the river, onto the gravel bars and just parking," Ms. McClure said last week while discussing the draft document. "There are gravel bars where vehicle use or truck use is allowed, but it’s just become more common to just pull the truck out into the river."

The physical state of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways was detailed on the Traveler two years ago after it was named to American River's list of Most Endangered Rivers (a listing park officials took strong exception to). The portrait crafted by Susan Flader, who long taught in the University of Missouri-Columbia History Department and long followed and enjoyed the National Riverways, was of a unit of the National Park System taken over by locals, where all-terrain-vehicle traffic and no-holds horse use were exacting a toll on the natural resources both in terms of physical degradation as well as elevated E. coli levels in the river, according to Friends of Ozark Riverways.

"... the camping areas developed by NPS are all set back and screened from view from the river, while in the unofficial primitive sites anything goes, including slashing and mowing vegetation and reshaping banks to open the view and improve access to the river," Ms. Flader wrote at the time. "Moreover, the roads to them are not shown on any ONSR maps for general visitor use, meaning they are available only to those—mostly local residents—who have heavy duty vehicles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and can find their own way there on a maze of unmarked, often deeply rutted roads. Local Ozark families have been visiting the river for generations, and they want to be in their own spot, right on the river, not in a developed campground with others."

None of this surfaces in Rep. Smith's condemnation of the Park Service planning efforts. His communications director, Justin Gibbs, told the Traveler on Monday that the congressman doesn't believe there's a need for more regulations in the National Riverways.

"The park is already over-managed, and we wouldn’t want to see any more restriction put on usages of any areas of the park," Mr. Gibbs said Monday during a phone call. “Our argument has always been that we can strike a balance here. We don’t have to shut the parks down in a way that’s going to make them accessible only to environmentalists. The parks should be accessible and they should be open. It’s public land.”

He pointed to the Park Service's proposal to seek creation of a 3,430-acre Big Spring Wilderness Area as one more step towards restricting access to the National Riverway.

When asked about problems with erosion caused by ATV travel and widespread equestrian use, as well as E. coli problems linked to horses, the congressman's spokesman said, "The folks who are using the parks are some of the best stewards of the land that you can imagine. This is their home. They want to do nothing but preserve and take care of it for their kids and their grandkids, and it’s just not right that their access should be limited.”

Still, Congressman Smith's comments have been described as carrying a measure of hyperbole as well as being off-mark.

One area resident, in a letter to the weekly Current Wave newspaper of Eminence, Missouri, questioned the congressman's facts, saying Rep. Smith was wrong in his claim that the national riverway was created "with the goal of preserving access to the Rivers."

"I don't recall that that was ever a goal," wrote Alan Banks. "There was never a problem with access to the rivers. The ONSR was created with a dual purpose, to preserve the natural beauty of the area and to provide recreational opportunities. Those purposes are often in opposition and it has been a continual conflict for managing the park. Should the park be a wilderness experience where people can enjoy unspoiled nature with minimal modern intrusions, or should it be an amusement park with unlimited numbers of canoes, high powered boats, ATVs, and horseback riders? I believe the Park Service has tried to strike a balance.

"I think most people would agree that the thing we love about the area and what attracts most visitors (on which local businesses depend), is its natural beauty. Would you rather come around the bend in the river and see a deer taking a drink or would you rather see someone's pickup backed out into the river with the radio blaring so everyone within sight can hear it? Would you rather see a heron fishing in shallow water next to a gravel bar or see tents and cars on what you expected to be an isolated area? The natural beauty is what we have to enjoy and what we have to sell to visitors and we need to be careful not to destroy that."

But in a countering letter, Jerry King, president of Voice of the Ozarks, voiced rhetoric similar to the one that has resounded throughout Cape Hatteras these past six+ years as the national seashore tried to come to terms with off-road vehicle use in habitat used by piping plovers, a threatened species, and five species of sea turtles, some of which are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

"The National Park Service, at the promoting of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, wishes to turn a Scenic Easement into an Environmental Park inaccessible to everyone but environmentalists!" Mr. King wrote.

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The Park Service wants to gain better control over horse crossings in the rivers. Friends of Ozark Riverways photo.

One thing about the Park Service's preferred alternative that draws criticism is the proposal to close and restore 65 miles "of undesignated horse trails and unauthorized stream crossings." Yet at the same time the park proposes to add roughly 25-35 miles of designated trails to the current horse trail system that runs about 23 miles, and create a 25-site horse campground along the Jacks Fork River.

In the process of addressing equestrian use in the riverways, the park would also prepare a "recreational horse use and trail management plan," something that's been missing. Park staff say this approach would better control erosion on river banks, soil compaction elsewhere, and sediment runoff.

The preferred alternative does state the Park Service's intention to gain control over motorized watercraft on the rivers, in part by increasing the percentage of river corridor open only to non-motorized watercraft (ie., canoes or kayaks). And the proposal aims to better manage camping on gravel bars by restricting to designated campsites where visitors could drive their vehicles.

The preferred alternative also would create "river management zoning," under which efforts to better manage motorized and non-motorized river use would be instituted. Under the plan, 34 percent of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers would be restricted to non-motorized craft, 14 percent would be open to motorized and non-motorized during the high season that falls between March 15 and Labor Day, and 52 percent would be open to both motorized and non-motorized traffic year-round.

"Establishment of river management zones that provide for nonmotorized stretches and stretches with increased management of horsepower and seasonal use would help reduce and control wake disturbances on riverbanks and associated erosion and sedimentation along several stretches of the rivers. However, since much of the proposed nonmotorized zones currently receive low levels of motorized use, the potential reductions in wake erosion in these areas would likely be minimal," park staff noted in the draft document.

As for other recreation, the Park Service wants to increase the amount of hiking trail access, in part by converting roughly 10 miles of roads in existing primitive zones to hiking trails. "One additional mile of accessible trails would be opened. Mountain biking would be a new, allowable trail use, but only on designated trails. Mountain biking would not be allowed in primitive zones," the plan adds.

Ms. Flader was hopeful the agency -- both in Washington, D.C., and locally -- would summon the backbone to adopt and enforce its preferred alternative.

“I think that they’ve made a real effort to grapple with the problems down there. I think that this is truly -- and this is my position -- has been a neglected park, where Park Service officials beyond those at the Riverways knew there were problems but just didn’t want to have to deal with it," she said Monday. "And now they have decided that they must deal with it. The Riverways is being watched by people in the Midwest Regional office, and in the Washington office. And they have, I am quite sure, have been looking carefully at this plan to see that it adheres to National Park Service standards. I think it’s gone back repeatedly for retooling of various things.”

A phone call to Gene Maggard, who owns the biggest canoe outfitting service operating in the Riverways, Akers Ferry Canoe Rental, was not immediately returned. But Ms. Flader, who has spoken with him repeatedly, thought he, too, was in favor of better management of the rivers.

"One of the things that is happening to those canoe outfitters, these concessionaires, is that there’s competition against them by other outftters who are not licensed, who are just dumping people into the river at other places, roads somewhere where it crosses the river," she said. "It makes it very difficult to distribute the use when that’s happening."

Furthermore, said Ms. Flader, “The easiest thing to complain about is the boarish, rowdy behavior of certain user groups. And that is the drunkenness and what not. The Park Service has actually done a good job of dealing with that in the last few years.

"...The canoe people don’t like it because their clients are suffering from it. Drunken guys standing out in the rapids and literally trying to tip canoes over as they come through, for fun."

Going forward, it will be interesting to see the tenor of comments received on this plan, and how the Park Service reacts. Should the riverways be a no-holds-barred recreation area, rife with miles of social trails, or one with regulations aimed at minimizing impacts with a goal of a better recreational experience? You can find the draft GMP, and comment on it, at this site.


no real evidence of that but you think so it must be.

I think any sensible person would deem fiscal responsibility a favorable attribute. I know when it comes time for my daughter to marry, I would feel far more comfortable that she marries someone that is fiscally responsibile than someone that spends like a drunken sailor.

I've also noticed you rarely actually backup your point with real data,

Funny comment since the post that generated your first response did exactly that. But please, any time you think a comment of mine isn't substantiated - please ask for more data.

I do view chronic deficit spending as responsible

There in lies the problem. You aren't marrying my daughter.

Some folks consistently make specious arguments just trying to get a rise from people to discuss their pet govt theories.

Right you are, paulscuba! There's certainly no connection between the budget for the State of Arkansas and the issues involved in a management plan for an NPS area located in Missouri, but that red herring sure led us into murky waters, didn't it?

Best approach to the individual in question is simply ignore him when he turns the rabbit loose for the chase:-)

Meanwhile, I wonder if anyone has any further comments pertinent to the story and Ozark National Scenic Riverways?

There's certainly no connection between the budget for the State of Arkansas and the issues involved in a management plan for an NPS area located in Missouri

Actually there is. The question was why one would think that state management would be better than federal. That is a question relevant not just for ONSR but for parks in every state including Arkansas. The fact that 40 states (including Arkansas and Missouri) run essentially balanced budgets demonstrates that the states are far more responsible than the feds. But you and Lee would rather throw out the red herring since I misidentified the subject state initially. (An event that supports my initial contention locals are likely to be more knowledgable than those from far away). You totally ignore the that facts are just as accurate for Missouri were ONSR is indeed located.

EC, I never studied economics too deeply, but the fiscal mission of the federal government is much different than that of states, no? Running a deficit can help the economy, as recent history has demonstrated. That said, I'd be happy to see a smaller deficit.

As to whether a state could better manage a national park property better than the Park Service is a different matter that isn't easily answered through speculation and I don't think can be answered based on how a state manages its budget. After all, a state might cut the budget of the responsible agency to make ends meet.

Running a deficit can help the economy, as recent history has demonstrated.

Sorry Kurt, I don't buy that. We have had huge deficit spending and the slowest economic recovery we have ever experienced.
{edit} Had to add this for Paul who claims I don't document anything.



I don't think can be answered based on how a state manages its budget

Certainly not exclusively. But, in my experience those that keep their fiscal house in order usually manage the rest of their lives well also.

Missouri State Parks system has either a $200M maintenance backlog according to the
or a $400M maintenance backlog according to the Missouri State Park Association. The state parks system also reduced its workforce by 20% in 2009.

Sara - sometimes you hit home runs. Others you strike out. You just dropped your average. The link you attribute to "the state" is in fact an advocacy group which quotes the $200 mil figure from another advocacy group. So it would appear the numbers merely represent the "wish list" of environmental advocates. Not too different from the $11 billion figure we often hear about for the NPS backlog.

EC, I'd say Sara is still hitting above .500.

In its 2013-17 strategic plan, the Missouri Division of State Parks says, "Stable funding allowed Missouri State Parks to make extensive repairs and improvements to the system, as well as develop new areas. But rising employee cost of living, aging infastructure in need of maintenance and replacement, and expectations for system expansion are ever-present – and revenues are stretched. Additional revenues targeting $20 million annually would allow Missouri State Parks to fulfill unmet maintenance, capital improvement expectations, and staffing needs. Several funding avenues are strategic potentials to garner this supplementary support."


Now, the plan doesn't offer a figure for how much in the hole the divsion is, or how many years of $20 million in additional spending would get it out of that hole. But it does says there's a need for "full and dedicated funding for continued operations" and that "extraordinary funding" is needed to "make needed infrastructure repairs."

Now, among the strategies the plan offers are:

* Continue attempts to reestablish general revenue funding.

* Gain legislative approval to retain interest on earnings.

* Reevaluate the fee structure of easements/agreements

* Consider the sale or lease of property not mission-essential

* Evaluate the fee structure for rental or lease of buildings

In other words, the agency is hurting for dollars. It might not need $400 million, or $200 million, but it's in the hole and doesn't sound reflective of the state "having its fiscal house in order."

Thanks for the information, Sara. Whether ec agrees with it or not, it seems pretty clear from the information from the two groups that state money for parks is already tight in Missouri.

Another somber article here about the funding problems for parks in several states, including Missouri.

And this past June, the Governor of Missouri announced cuts of $400 million in state funds for FY 2014, pending resolution of a dispute over tax cuts with legislators. Among the cuts: ...more than $15 million in state payroll, and a plan for terminating 1,000 full time state employees...The restrictions also include a large portion of funds appropriated for Capital improvements... [including] State Park improvement projects. The tax cuts ultimately failed, but supporters vow to bring the issue back next year.

The Governor's budget announced earlier this year included curs of "12.5 percent from public universities' funding and shrinks the state workforce by 816 positions..."

Despite the belief by some that the state could do a better job running a park like Ozark Riverways, it doesn't sound like a very promising environment for the state to take on a significant new park operation.

EC, I'd say Sara is still hitting above .500.

You are being generous. She cited a source as being a state source. It wasn't. And $20 mil isn't $200 mil.

it seems pretty clear from the information from the two groups that state money for parks is already tight in Missouri.

No its clear those two advocacy groups have that opinion. That makes it far from fact.

EC, you're a tough sell. If you can drum up some state docs that show the shortfall is only $20 million, than I'll agree the two sources that Sara cited are off a bit. But my guess is those groups didn't pull those figures out of the air, and as I noted, the state strategic plan is for four years and they want an additional $20 million a year, so they're at least $80 million-$100 million+ in arrears. My gut tells me it's higher than than, but I'll go with the docs and stories that have surfaced until you can prove substantively otherwise with documentation.

want an additional $20 million a year

and that covers more than just maintainance backlog and just because they "want" it doesn't make it necessary or even desirable.

My point was that Sarah's attribution was false. Now lets discuss the relavance. Even if it does have a $200 mil backlog. How does that make them less stewards than the Feds with an $11 billion backlog? (Not that I believe that number either)

Apparently, mountain biking will not be allowed in primitive areas. What does that mean on the ground? No access to single track? Not that I personnally care since I'm pretty sure I'll never visit the Ozarks, but I'm curious.

I notice ec conveniently ignored my post (with sources) describing the budget problems for the State of Missouri. Given the financial pinch for state government (and fierce fights for funds among various government functions and interest groups, perhaps he would enlighten us about how the state would come up with the additional funds needed if the state were operating Ozark Riverways.

As to the credibility of items on lists of "backlog" maintenance needs for Missouri state parks (and NPS areas) perhaps ec would like to offer specific examples of items which consitutue "wishes" vs. valid needs, and based on that analysis, what he views as a more credible total than those cited. Until he offers some kind of fact-based analysis, his scoffing at the validility of those lists is nothing more than unsubstantiated opinion.

Are dollar amounts for projects on all such "backlog" lists based on estimates? Of course - developing and maintaining such lists to meet the needs of the politicians who dole out the money is costly and time-consuming in itself. Given the fact that it could be years (if ever) that parks get the money for some of those needs, it would be poor "stewardship" to waste the time to get specific bids for projects that would be outdated before the work is ever funded.

The key point about such lists isn't in the quibbling about exact dollar amounts, but rather the big picture view they offer of the current condition of facilities in parks, and the near-term needs to bring them to a level of "acceptable" condition. Whatever the exact dollar amounts, they are useful indicators of funding shortfalls at existing budget levels.

Missouri operates 87 state parks and historic sites covering about 200,000 acres which receive about 18 million visits a year and have "nearly 1,000 miles of trail." Trying to compare the maintenance and other operating costs for that system and the NPS isn't even close to "apples and oranges."

The Missouri State Parks website notes that about ¾ of the funding for those parks comes from tax revenue, while the remainder comes from revenues generated in the parks and "some federal funds." Uh-oh, some of those borrowed and therefore tainted federal dollars are involved even in MIssouri :-)

I find it especially interesting that even the state's website recognizes that "State Parks Differ from Local or National Parks," explaining that "National parks were created to preserve natural and historic wonders of national and international significance." That's one more answer to ec's belief that "locals" should have more say in decisions about managing national parks than people from anywhere else in the country.

I would point out to everyone, particularly ec, that comparing state and federal budgets, deficits, debt, etc is like comparing apples and oranges. The states and feds follow different accounting procedures and have different budgetary practices; they should never be compared. Holding states up as shining examples of fiscal responsibility relative to the Feds because the state budgets are 'balanced' only reveals one's ignorance of the basic principles of public finance.

*State and local government have two budgets - capital and current/operating. The Feds have a unified budget, which includes all spending for the year. Often, when a state 'has a balanced budget', it's only the operating budget that's balanced.

*Most states are 'required' to balance their budget...but only the operating budget.

*State and local governments follow accrual accounting practices, so revenues and expenditures are recorded when the transaction happens, regardless of when the government receives or pays out the money.

*The Feds use cash accounting, so they record transactions when the money is actually received or paid.

*The use of accrual accounting allows the states to delay or accelerate transactions, which allows them to paper over operating deficits.

*States often 'borrow' from their pension funds and/or trust funds and/or sell assets to cover operating deficits and give the appearance of balanced budget.

For further reading...

"Balanced Budgets," Dr. Bulent Uyar, on page 11 of http://business.uni.edu/economics/Newsletter/Newsletter%202013c.pdf

Chapters 1 & 9 of G.R. Evans' "Red Ink"

Chapter 6 of Rosen & Gayer's "Public Finance" (9th edition)

Pages 231-7 and 275-279 of Fisher's "State and Local Public Finance"

Or your favorite public finance textbook.

Thanks, iowan4564 for some interesting information, which is further supported by the following:

From the Missouri constitution (amended Aug. 28, 2013 to allow borrowing of more money)

"The general assembly may authorize the contracting of an indebtedness on behalf of the state of Missouri and the issuance of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness in the aggregate sum of six hundred million dollars for the purpose of providing funds for improvements of state buildings and property, including state parks ..." [emphasis added].

An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last November voiced support for this new bond issued (yep, that's borrowed money) to deal with "the state’s major public infrastructure showing signs of disrepair."

That same story notes, "Voters in 1982 narrowly approved a constitutional amendment put before them by the Legislature and endorsed by the Republican governor that called for spending $600 million to build roads, parks and public buildings." [That spending was financed by a bond issue.] According to this news report, the state made its last payment on that 1982 bond issue in October 2012.

In fairness to ec, I too am concerned about the overall state of our national finances. However, I don't buy his claim that states such as Missouri are doing so much better than the feds at managing their money that it makes sense to turn national parks like Ozark Riverways over the state.

Dittos Jim, I would also like to thank iowan4564 for an informative post.

Thank you for some actual facts, iowan.

better stewards because they don't deficit spend

This is a pretty obvious non sequitur, anyway. Balancing a budget in itself has nothing to do with how a state decides to practice stewardship. If it were logical, VT would have been the worst steward in the union for many years.

So, what's a primitive trail?

Off the top of my head, Zeb, without making any calls or sifting through docs, I would say it's a trail that goes through the proposed wilderness area.

Now, you might be interested to know that at First State National Monument in Delaware, which we'll shine some light on on Sunday, they do have, and will continue to allow, biking on what you might consider single track trails in the Woodlawn property. That's about 1100 acres of rolling meadows and forest.

*The use of accrual accounting allows the states to delay or accelerate transactions, which allows them to paper over operating deficits.

The folks here don't know any better but I do. Accural accounting is the more conservative approach. It generates the expenses at the time they occur. Cash accounting allows an entity to generate an obligation but pretend it doesn't exist until its actually paid for. Think Social Security or Medicare.

Zebulon/Kurt -

As per the preferred alternative, mountain biking would not be allowed in the zones managed as "primitive". There are multiple such zones defined under the preferred alternative. So "primitive" in this case does not equate to "proposed wilderness".

Much thanks for the clarification, Scott.

Thanks both. So, it seems that NPS bias against mountain biking remains, at least in the Ozarks.

So, it seems that NPS bias against mountain biking remains, at least in the Ozarks.

Since you are of the belief that 100% of the park must be open to mountain biking for NPS to be deemed unbiased to mountain biking, I will not attempt to reason with you. I would lose. But I will throw out a couple of things for others to consider.

1) From page 69: "Mountain biking would be a new, allowable trail use, but only on designated trails. Mountain biking would not be allowed in primitive zones."

2) From figure 3 page 52: 16.4% of the park would be designated "primitive zones".

3) For those who don't want to do math, that means 83.6% of the park is open to allowing designated mountain bike trails.

It is also worth pointing out that currently there are zero mountain bike trails in ONSR. This is a deficit that many of us are happy to see ONSR attempting to correct. It should also please many folks that there are no mountain bike trails being shut down with this plan, nor any existing accesses taken away. So no one can crow about how "we have been riding there forever and now they want to shut us down."

My inclination is to lean toward the opinion of the locals rather than people who never have nor never will visit the area whether for recreation or solitude.

EC - what is the definition of "locals" in this case? Does that mean Missouri residents; adjoining county residents; residents within a certain mileage, etc? Or maybe you are saying everyone in Congressman Smith's district (8th)?


Does that mean Missouri residents; adjoining county residents; residents within a certain mileage, etc? Or maybe you are saying everyone in Congressman Smith's district (8th)?

Yes - I would apply more weight to all their opinions (as a group) than some bureaucrat in Washington who has never been in the state.

Ah, that's a big relief, ec.

So it's only those nasty Washington bureaucrats who worry you. If that's the case, though, why do you waste so much energy trying to silence we plain, ordinary citizens whose opinions and ideas are not in line with yours?

If a national park area belongs to all of America's citizens, doesn't that make all of us locals -- at least as long as we live within our national boundaries?

You're of course right, Lee. As a national park, all Americans are "local." And should have more say than some bureaucrat in Washington.

do you waste so much energy trying to silence we plain,

Lee - I don't try to silence anyone. But I would give more weight to the Missouri locals than to your voice too given they are far more knowledgable and engaged in Ozark issues than you. But if it gives you any comfort, i would give the foks of Utah more say in their local parks than the folks in Missouri - or Washington.

Wow. The idea of giving some of our Utah locals more say is really frightening. Happily, there are more sensible Utahns than there are Mike Noels and Rob Bishops. So far, we've been able to hold them back.

But should we allow grave robbers who pillage Anasazi sites or those who ride their ATVs across high mountain meadows instead of following an establish trail or roadway more say. Should those who shoot up road signs, pit toilets and petroglyphs be handed stewardship of our lands?

I think not. It sure would be nice if we could find a way to weed out the irresponsible ones from the others who would take their stewardship seriously.

But as long as I am a taxpaying American who has a partial ownership of our federal lands and park areas, I will try as hard as I can to stand up and defend them against those who would do harm.

But should we allow grave robbers who pillage Anasazi sites or those who ride their ATVs across high mountain meadows instead of following an establish trail or roadway more say. Should those who shoot up road signs, pit toilets and petroglyphs be handed stewardship of our lands?

Of course not and noone has said we should. But such hyperbole serves your purposes well when you have no rational argument.

If you look at one of the last few pages of the Draft plan, there is a list of the preparers and consultants. The NPS personnel on the list work at the Denver Service Center, the Midwest Regional Office, and the Ozark River site. There is also a Senior Economist from the Louis Berger Group. No Washington bureaucrats on the list.

Gee, I thought it was pretty rational argument. Hyperbole? No. Not at all. Just drive down almost any Utah road and look at the holey road signs. Read the newspapers and learn about the medical doctor in southern Utah who committed suicide a couple of years ago after having been caught with pilfered artifacts. Read all the vitriolic and hateful comments that were directed at the evil federal officers who "persecuted" the poor, innocent soul. Look at the ruts and trails made by ATVs where any degree of common sense would tell you driving them should be off limits. Listen to some of our legislators (Mike Noel and Rob Bishop) as they scream for more development and less protection. Mike Noel led a big ATV ride up the streambed in the Paria River a couple of years ago. The sheriff of Kane County joined Mike in pulling up BLM markers. And Mike, who hates anything federal, has been putting a lot of energy into gathering up a few million dollars to run a federally funded water system into a gated community overlooking Zion.

I know that no one here has said we should allow such rape of our environment -- at least not in so many words. But there sure has been a lot of opposition to sensible stewardship of our public lands.

I don't think I'm the one guilty of bending facts. Now let's see your rational argument for allowing people like those to have more say in park issues.

Justin, Lee, et al, don't forget that when those megalomaniac Washington Bureaucrats set aside their black helicopters and pork-generating paperwork for the day and punch out, they turn into Timothy Tentpeg, nice guy going on vacation back in the National Parks near East Turnipwollow, the small town they grew up in.

Before escaping back to the left coast, I lived in the DC area for 19 years, surrounded by these critters. With friends and neighbors ranging from program directors and political appointees to janitors and typists, I can tell you that far and away the majority of them are indeed from Upper Podunk, and few adopt Foggy Bottom permanently. My point - everyone has heritege as a 'local' somedamnplace.

EC - Since you consider Missourians the locals and feel they should have more say, you should then NOT support Rep Smith's take on the area. Missouri citizens are overwhelmingly in support of the NPS efforts outlined in alternative B. Rep Smith and some in the 8th district HATE St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, etc. He does NOT speak for Missourians so by your definition if you want to side with the locals (Missourians), then you in fact should be 100% against his desire to see, for example, 65 miles of illegal atv trails deemed legal. You should support limited equestrian use, limited horsepower on boats in some sections of river......and so on.


Thank you, Scott. The same thing can be said here in Utah where an overwhelming number of citizens fully support environmental protections and oppose the efforts of people like our Noel and Bishop.

There are pockets of extreme anti-environmental sentiment, but by and large thay are kept under control by the rest of us. As for Bishop and his GOP cohorts -- because of some very, very creative gerrymandering and anonymous PAC support, he will likely be re-elected. But we who oppose him are gonna give him a darn good fight.

And just a humorous side note -- after the GOP shoved their gerrymandered Congressional districts through, it was discovered that in several places in Utah County alone, the district lines ran through the middle of houses. Thus, if you slept on one side of your house and the kids slept on the other, you were in different Congressional districts.

Now let's see your rational argument for allowing people like those to have more say in park issues.

Once again, I have never made that argument. People commit those unconscionable acts in every state and in DC. Does that mean that noone is capable of being a steward. Of course not, we have elected officials that represent the people. And at the local level I believe that is far truer than at the national level. We have local conservation groups, local business groups, local social groups all of which represent good in their communities. These are the people I want to have more say in the parks.

Missouri citizens are overwhelmingly in support of the NPS efforts outlined in alternative B


"ou should then NOT support Rep Smith's take on the area"

I haven't come out to support or oppose anyone's plan. I am only advociating that local interest be heard and considered. If the Missouri citizens overwhlemingly opppose - than that should be seriously considered in the mix.

here an overwhelming number of citizens fully support environmental protections and oppose the efforts of people like our Noel and Bishop.

Which is why they keep getting voted into office.

"I am only advociating that local interest be heard and considered."

I doubt that few, if any, users of this site would quarrel with that position. One of the reasons for the length and expense of the NPS process for plans such as the one under discussion is the extensive measures taken to seek public input.

It's not an easy process. How, for example, do you define "local interest"? Is that people who live within 1 mile, 10 miles, a hundred miles of the park, or who live within the same state? Who speaks for the "locals"? A small but very vocal group concerned about protecting specific activities, or local businesses understandably concerned about their bottom line, or a well-organized group that generates a small flood of form letters during the public comment period, and on and on.

When all is said and done and a plan is finalized, how do we determine if various points of view were "heard" in the process? No matter what the outcome, some individuals and groups will complain that their voices were ignored if all or even most of their wishes weren't granted. Anyone who reads even small sample of the numerous public comments (available on the planning process website) will quickly realize that's it's impossible to satisfy all of the wide range of opinions expressed on the number of issues involved.

Those issues of "local interest" are especially complicated in relatively new parks like Ozark Riverways, where some users clearly remember what life was like before the park, and they had the area pretty much to themselves. Some of those fond memories of the good 'ol days include a heavy dose of nostalgia seen through the proverbial rose-tinted lenses; they also fail to consider what the area might be like today if the park had never been established at all.

Without a park, would these rivers and valleys now be drowned under large reservoirs, or would much of the shoreline be tied up in private ownership by resorts, weekend homes and the like? No one can say, but those are possible scenarious that would be a lot more restrictive on some local users than limits imposed by a park.

The world has changed everywhere in the last 50 years and there are more people living in the USA - and Missouri - than a generation or two ago. To cite just two issues from this plan, folks who want the continued "freedom" to ride their horses or ATV's anyplace they choose, without regard to impacts on the land and water and others who share ownership of those public areas, are unlikely to be completely satisfied with the final outcome of this plan.

That does not, however, mean their opinions were not considered.

Jim, this is simply an excellent post. Thank you. Recently, Mr. Ken Burns produced an outstanding documentary on the National Park system. Historically, it is quite possible that many, if not most, of our parks would not exist today without a truly national effort in spite of the many "locals" concerns, and in most cases strenuous opposition from some quarters (Ozark Secenic Riverways a good example) For those that are interested, I do think the Ken Burns documentary is truly worth the read/ watch. It is the best summary of the NPS on film that I have seen. There are many excellent books on this issue, Dwight Retties "Our National Parks", well the list is quite lengthly. One very recent book by Barbara Moritsch, "The Soul of Yosemite", would make a great Xmas present.

Barbara Moritsch's book has some outstanding endorsements including Dr. Roderick Nash, Emeritus of History and Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara and, among others, Dr. Jan Van Wagtendonk, Research Forester Emeritus at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. Dr. Van Wagtendonk is a quite amazing person, started his career as a smoke jumper for the USFS, was an Airborne Company Commander in Vietnam, well we could go on and on. In any case, Barbara's book is worth reading. Thank you again Jim for your post on the traveler website.

"Which is why they keep getting voted into office."

Can you say "Gerrymandering?" Districts so tightly gerrymandered that their boundary lines crisscross streets and even divide houses to make sure they include every voter who is registered as a Republican. A state in which it is not uncommon for leaders to stand up in church services on Sunday and urge votes for certain candidates. A state in which members of a church may find it very uncomfortable to admit they are not followers of the elephant. A state that has one of the highest audience rates for the loudest hate radio voices. A state that has the lowest voter turnout of any state because too many moderate or even Democrats have given up and figure it's hopeless and does no good to cast a ballot.

They are re-elected because they have a base of rabid followers who manage to push through nominations of extremists who will receive many votes from people who look no farther than their party label. It's not uncommon to hear someone here speaking fervently about how terrible some Congressional action was and then to have them shocked when they learn it was one of their representatives who wrote the bill or voted for it. Contrary to popular belief, elephants really have very short memories.

That is why we who support parks and environment -- and Democratic candidates -- have our work cut out for us.

And Jim, your post above was outstanding! Ron, let's not forget that in probably the majority of cases in which new park areas are proposed, it's because a group of locals worked like galley slaves pushing for it -- often against serious opposition from other "locals."

Again, let's remember that, in the case of our NATIONAL park areas, every American citizen is a local. Even though I may never be able to visit Everglades which is far from Utah doesn't mean I should have my voice or opinion discounted. I care about it. If for no other reason than the fact that I want it to be there for my chldren or grandchildren to visit and for other Americans who may be more fortunate than I who do find themselves enjoying the place.

For that matter, I care also because these places are gems of world-class significance and I see little difference between the enjoyment of an American visitor and one from Germany or Japan or wherever.

Yup, up here in Alaska the gerrymandering by the controlling elephant, oil-company "lobbyist" state leaders has been shameless, public, and malignant. We're far from a lonely example.

Can you say "Gerrymandering?"

Yep, always the excuse, always someone to blame.