Missouri Official Wants State To Reclaim Ozark National Scenic Riverways From National Park Service

While National Park Service personnel are trying to craft a long-term management plan for Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri's lieutenant government is making a pitch for the state to "reclaim this resource."

The planning efforts have unleashed a battle in Missouri, where some believe the Park Service's draft preferred alternative would greatly restrict access to the Jack Fork and Current rivers that are at the heart of the riverways.

As the Traveler reported last month, a freshman congressman from Missouri's 8th District maintains that the park's 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 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.

Now Missouri's lieutenant governor, Peter Kinder, has penned an op-ed calling for the Show-Me State to show it can better take care of the riverways than the federal government.

"Under the supposed benevolent care of the federal government, Ozark National Riverways is threatened. The solution should not be to give that same federal government more authority and power over the area’s management," he wrote. "Doing so not only will restrict Missourians and visitors from enjoying time on the Jacks Fork and Current, but will hurt many small businesses in southern Missouri that depend on tourism and recreation dollars. The last thing this region needs is more overbearing management by bureaucrats in Washington.

"The creation and management of parks is clearly a responsibility that Missouri handles well. There is no reason to believe it would be any different with a state-managed Ozark Scenic Riverways. It’s time for Missouri to begin efforts to reclaim this resource from the federal government."

Supporters of the park's planning efforts 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.

Over the years park officials have grappled with their mandate to preserve and protect the rivers. 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 now open for public comment 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."

From his office, Lt. Gov. Kinder has acknowledged that "rowdy behavior along the rivers, illegal camping and unauthorized trails have threatened the pristine area." At the same time, he doesn't believe the Park Service has the proper solution to controlling that behavior.

"The federal government's solution, at the urging of environmentalists, is to restrict access to the water and the abutting lands," he maintained.

Details of the draft management plan can be found on this page. Comments are being taken through February 7, and you can leave them on that page, too.

Comments

Here's a link to Kinder's entire op-ed (which doesn't include much more than what's quoted above): http://www.semissourian.com/story/2037815.html

Very little substance. Mostly just incendiary rhetoric, false choices, and a string of cliches.

"Very little substance. Mostly just incendiary rhetoric, false choices, and a string of cliches."

Gee, that sounds familiar doesn't it?

But too often, for some people, that's all they have to offer.

I was searching the web for the "why" of the creation of ONSR and really found nothing that explained in detail the reasoning behind it. However, I did find this wonderfully informative Traveler article in two parts, for anyone interested: Part 1, Part 2.

Thanks for that link to the companion pieces, dahkota.


Very little substance. Mostly just incendiary rhetoric, false choices, and a string of cliches.


I read the piece and saw none of this. Perhaps you would like to identify specific phrases that meet these criteria and refute them. And please, don't quote out of context in order to decieve.

Lt. Gov. Kinder has acknowledged that "rowdy behavior along the rivers, illegal camping and unauthorized trails have threatened the pristine area." At the same time, he doesn't believe the Park Service has the proper solution to controlling that behavior.

Mr. Kirk doesn't, however, offer any hints about his "proper solution to controlling that behavior" under state management of Ozark Riveways.

My personal knowledge about Missouri's state parks and recreation areas is very limited, but from what I can infer from limited browsing on-line, they seem to be well-managed. If that's true, perhaps it's due to a combination of adequate funding and staffing, limited size when compared to Ozark Riverways, and stringent enforcement of regulations on "rowdy behavior" and activities that "threaten pristine areas."

Interestingly, it appears that the policies and regulations that apply to visitor activities in Missouri State Parks are generally more even more restrictive than the NPS imposes or proposes at Ozark Riverways. Some examples are found here and at this link.

It would be interesting to see the reactions of the locals if the state proposed to apply and enforce those same rules at Ozark Riveways:-)


Mr. Kirk doesn't, however, offer any hints about his "proper solution to controlling that behavior" under state management of Ozark Riveways.


Au contraire - he cites (as do you) the "well-managed" parks throughout the state. That sure "hints" to me that it would be run with similar solutions.

I noticed the same thing, Jim. Kinder claims that Missouri can better address these specific issues than the NPS proposals, but never goes on to explain what his proposals are, how they differ from the NPs ones, or how they would better address them. In short, he takes a stance but never supports it--i.e. little sub-stance.

In fact, his "argument" is also pretty incoherent:


Over the years, though, rowdy behavior along the rivers, illegal camping and unauthorized trails have threatened the pristine area. The federal government's solution, at the urging of environmentalists, is to restrict access to the water and the abutting lands.


Obviously, eliminating "illegal camping and unauthorized trails" would by definition mean "restrict[ing] access to the water and the abutting lands." (In other words, illegal camping and unauthorized trails are unrestricted access, which is what, Kinder agrees, is threatening the pristine area.) So, what is the problem with this solution? Kinder never explains this, either.

I agree, justinh.

ec: your comment that Kirk "hints" that the state would run Ozark Riveways with similar solutions to those used in their state parks was a key part of my point. If you look at those "solutions" applied to current state areas, (no dogs off leash, strict limits on alcohol, camping only in authorized areas, regulations on ATV use, etc.) it's hard to see how those would be less onerous to the locals than the NPS plan.

However, if you're a state official who has to run for reelection, it's a good strategy to just complain about the NPS approach and avoid getting into details about your own solutions :-)


If you look at those "solutions" applied to current state areas, (no dogs off leash, strict limits on alcohol, camping only in authorized areas, regulations on ATV use, etc.)


Didn't search all those items but for alcholol, all I could find in those regs was:

"Use of or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating an ATV or motorcycle is prohibited"

Is that "strict limits"?

Missouri must be doing something right with their parks as they don't seem to be experiencing the destruction being seen in Ozark Riverways and I don't see a clamoring amoung Missourians to turn their parks over to the Feds.

Jim, in my own view the issue is much larger, National Parks are just that, they belong to all citizens. I do understand that some locals may be concerned about further restraints on the area uses permitted, however, as the visitation (and population increases), the parks have little choice. These areas have an equal or greater purpose than just visitor enjoyment, by law, they are required to manage the place in such a way that much of it (or better yet, all of it) will remain unimpaired for future generations. The pressure on our prime natural, cultural and historic resources areas is well documented, I am in 100% support of the planners and managers at Ozark Scenic River Way. It is time for us to get serious about environmental issues in our Nations parks and public lands and, with good will toward the locals, they need to buy into this as well. I am sure many have.

rmackie

Interesting, as much of this National Park "that belongs to all citizens" was mostly acquired through forced sale against the wishes of many of the original land owners.

. . . . was mostly acquired through forced sale against the wishes of many of the original land owners."

Documentation please?

"But except for the three state parks, which were transferred to NPS in 1970, most of the
land within the authorized boundaries of the narrow riverine park was private, and would
have to be acquired in fee simple or protected from development and timber-cutting by sce-
nic easement. Because NPS insisted on the right of public access 300 feet back from the river
on scenic easements, many fiercely independent Ozark farmers, who disliked any kind of
government control, felt forced to sell. But Congress authorized only $7 million in the 1964
act to acquire up to 65,000 acres of private land, leading NPS officials to set upper limits on
appraisals, which meant that more than 200 cases ended up in court. Although the courts
tended to set considerably higher values than initially offered by NPS, the forced sales and
contentious proceedings led to a heritage of ill will toward NPS by many in the region (Sarvis 2000)."

http://www.georgewright.org/282flader.pdf

And this guy is on your side.

Thanks, ec. You actually came through this time.

I'll be doing some homework tomorrow. Just a quick scan of this indicates there is plenty of fodder for discussion on both sides of the issue. Gonna have to read it through carefully.

Re ecbuck: "Didn't search all those items but for alcholol, all I could find in those regs was: "Use of or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating an ATV or motorcycle is prohibited"

Need to look a little harder, ec. Here are some other examples from the cited sources: "Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on beaches, parking areas and off-road-vehicle areas in all state parks and historic sites... Open or closed containers of intoxicating liquor and/or non-intoxicating beer are prohibited in ORV areas, staging areas, entrance roads, and other areas designated for ORV operation," ...and so on.

Another issue that has really riled up the locals is the idea of any restrictions on their use of horses at Ozark Riverways. Here are excerpts from regulations on horses on state-managed lands:

"Horses, donkeys and mules shall not be ridden on foot trails, through streams, off designated trails, or tied to trees without the permission of the facility manager..."

"Equestrian owners or riders must show proof of current negative Coggins test (equine infectious anemia) upon request by appropriate park personnel and can be denied access to the facilities if such proof cannot be provided ..."

"Horses, donkeys and mules are permitted only in designated areas within state parks and historic sites and are not permitted in camping areas, picnic areas, or other public use areas ..."

I don't disagree with any of the above. My point is I strongly suspect this is not quite what the locals who are complaining about the NPS guidelines have in mind when they yearn for what they presume would be less restrictive management by the state.

Lee, I found the The George Wright Society post very informative. From my own limited knowledge, the issues surrounding the creation of many of our National Park areas entail much of the same resentment by some local citizens documented here. The fact is this continues today even for our oldest parks, including Yosemite. The Wild and Scenic River Management for Yosemite has been tied up in litigation for over 15 years, the good news is it appears to be resolved, of course there will be something in the "Record of Decision" forthcoming for everyone to like and dislike. It is a reality, locals who have been using the area the same way for 50 years or more, well the new restraints simply are not liked. Much of this resentment is due to a lack of knowledge as to why the restraints are needed. However it does work, it takes a generation and it takes a committed educational outreach effort by the agency. It will not satisfy all, but it will ensure the success of the area management plan to some extent.

One example was the the wilderness trailhead quota system for Yosemite and for the matter the Central Sierra. Having been part of that effort, we took 5 years to educate the visitors to the fact this was needed. The first two years were just educational, the 3rd, permits issued, no restrictions, the 4th year, permits required, but no citations. The fifth year, permits required or citation possible, there are always some extenuating circumstances. It is hard to believe, but in that 5th year we issued less than a dozen tickets for failure to have a permit. For some of thereal old time locals, we actually hand delivered the permits at the trailhead, maybe a half a dozen or so. Change is difficult, no matter the issue. The credit goes to the managers that were committed to the system and phased it in so that citizens could get educated to the need for it.

As the "George Wright" article points out, this area has not made that effort, or if it has, the local politics have made it extremely difficult. I have witnessed this myself in other NPS areas I have worked. The author has done an excellent job , the need for an approved plan and the funding to implement it is well documented. It is heartening to know that the ecolgical values of this area are recognized nation wide and something finally appears to be taking place. Thank you "Traveler" for bringing this to our attention and allowing for the discussion.

Kinder: "The creation and management of parks is clearly a responsibility that Missouri handles well. There is no reason to believe it would be any different with a state-managed Ozark Scenic Riverways."

Kansas City Star: "Park supporters estimate Missouri’s park repair needs at about $400 million."

“It has reached a point where Band-Aids and baling wire are just not quite enough,” said Steve Nagle, Missouri Parks Association president.

"The group pointed to federal data showing that the states had an $18.5 billion wish list for outdoor recreational facilities for which there is no money, including $523 million in Kansas and $2 billion in Missouri."

"But even in a state that receives sales tax money dedicated for parks, there’s worry that Missouri is falling behind on its maintenance.The state provided a list showing about $28 million in deferred building maintenance. Officials acknowledged it did not include other types of park infrastructure such as roads and sewers. The Missouri Parks Association said it has figures from the state showing the backlog at about $400 million. Nagle attributed the money shortage to the state pulling its general tax funding after the introduction of a sales tax for parks in the mid-1980s."

Missouri State Parks comprise about 200,000 acres. ONSR is about 80,000 acres. If Missouri's "well managed" parks increase by about 1/3 in size with no additional funding, I can't imagine the condition the parks will be in within two years.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/06/30/4322935/state-parks-fall-victim-to-tight.html#storylink=cpy

Two excellent posts by Ron and Dahkota. Thank you both. I'll get cracking on reading that George Wright article in a while -- if the terminal sore throat I have doesn't get me first.

Dahkota,

Those "wish lists" are just that wishes. They don't bear any resemblence to real shortfalls in maintneance. As jim has already noted, the Missouri parks are considered to be "well managed".

So you missed the part about $400 million in maintenance needs?

The wishlist is $2 billion.

ec - since you quoted me, my actual comment was "My personal knowledge about Missouri's state parks and recreation areas is very limited, but from what I can infer from limited browsing on-line, they seem to be well-managed."

The context of my quote about state park management was in terms of dealing with concerns such as "rowdy behavior along the rivers, illegal camping and unauthorized trails [which] have threatened the pristine area." The challenges in handling such problems in a small state park are vastly different than dealing with similar issues in a much larger area such as Ozark Riverways.

As to "wish lists" for maintenance needs, that term doesn't mean items included aren't valid projects; some, such as repairs and upgrades to electrical and water systems, are clearly more essential than others. An alternative view to yours is that such lists are sometimes described as "wishes" because the reality is that funds for many such projects are unlikely to be provided anytime soon, if at all.

I haven't examined such lists in detail, so I can't say if items on the list for Missouri State Parks "don't bear any resemblance to real shortfalls in maintenance." Perhaps you'd like to offer some examples.

In my opinion, the solution relies with restrictions to enable preserving and protecting the rivers, while controlling the unwanted behavior of drunkenness, rowdy boaters, etc...the State threatens to take back the property only to make sure the restrictions by the NPS are not so severe to lower the tourism dollars and possibly to get them to do a better job of some enforcement. The State does not have the money to buy back the land and make it better. They are hoping the squeeky wheel gets what it needs without too severe restrictions. Just my opinion as I see it. I lived in Missouri in from 1980-1991 and at least back then they had very nice State parks but also had very nice (federal) Corps of Engineer campgrounds and parks.

From Missouriparks.org:

The steep downturn in sales tax revenues as a result of the recent economic crisis resulted in a decline of over $4 million, while expenses continued to grow. This necessitated extreme belt tightening – more than 120 staff positions (20 percent of the total) eliminated in 2009, days and hours of operation reduced, more expenses deferred – while striving to maintain an adequate level of public service. Funds for infrastructure repair and rehabilitation are obviously even more constrained, leading the backlog to grow more rapidly and the eventual cost of repairs to increase.

WHAT ARE THE NEEDS?
The $400 million capital improvements backlog consists of vitally needed infrastructure repair and rehabilitation.The park system has 56 park-
owned water systems and 96 sewer systems, each of which is the equivalent of that for a small city, but unlike most municipal systems our parks have not been deemed eligible for major federal matching funds. There are 40 dams, 300 miles of roads, 95 bridges, and over 1,000 miles of trails to maintain, not including the Katy Trail, which adds another 236 miles of trail, 472 bridges, nearly 900 culverts, and 58 structures. Recreational facilities include more than 3,700 campsites, as well as
marinas, boat launches, swimming pools and shelters. Educational exhibits throughout the system, both outdoor and indoor, are in need of repair or updating. The system also must maintain 2,043 structures, 700 of which are historic, including fourteen CCC-era group camps with sleeping facilities for more than 1,250 and 316 other cabin or motel lodging units. It is worth noting that the state park system contains 56 percent of the 3,657 buildings under the jurisdiction of the state Office
of Administration.
Not included in the $400 million backlog is any funding for acquisition of new parks or acreage. The pressing need at this time is to take care of the existing park system.


"Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on beaches, parking areas and off-road-vehicle areas in all state parks and historic sites.."


My browser "find" function didn't find that but I will take your word for it (citing section numbers would help) . But I don't see anything objectionable there and doubt that anyone but the yahoos doing the damage would object to those or the other provisions you cited.


You actually came through this time


As always.


So you missed the part about $400 million in maintenance needs?


Nope. And what is the federal "maintenance backlog"? As noted (now numerous times) the Missouri parks are generally considered well managed. Ozark Riverway doesn't get that distinction.

Hmmmm. What happened to taking things out of context with deliberate intent to decieve? Looks like some rather selective context selection in quoting Jim's comments. Was that deliberate?

Also appears that gremlins have invaded the George Wright Society this morning. Can't get that link to load today. Wassup?


Looks like some rather selective context selection in quoting Jim's comments


No. It was consistent. I said originally I only looked for the alcohol reference and thats all I responded to. But, if it will make you feel any better, I don't see anything in any of the other rules Jim cited that anybody but the yahoos doing the damage would object to.


Perhaps you'd like to offer some examples.


A fair challange and one that will make me revise my statement to " I doubt they bear any resemblance to real shortfalls in maintenance." But without a definitive list, which I am not privey to, it is difficult for either of us to definitively state whether they really are necessary maintainance or just some it would be "nice to have". My observations in the past is that many of the projects that do get completed fall in the latter rather than former catagory.

I would also note there are numerous estimates of what the backlog is which further suggests that it is a subjective rather than objective calculation.

[edit] And perhaps why we don't have a definitive list is that the $400 mil dahkota is so enamoured with is an estimate by "park supporters". Talk about phantom numbers!


"I don't see anything in any of the other rules Jim cited that anybody but the yahoos doing the damage would object to."


I'm not sure how ec would define "yahoos doing the damage," but one of the big points of contention by local interests with the proposed NPS management plan involves any new controls on horse use in the park – which would certainly be the case if the existing rules for horses cited above for other state-managed areas were to be applied at the Riverway.

In a previous Traveler article on this subject, Justin Gibbs, a spokesman for Representative Smith (one of the most vocal critics of the NPS plan) says "the congressman doesn't believe there's a need for more regulations in the National Riverways." That sounds like he'd also object to any regulations imposed by state management, such as those I cited above.

"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...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, "... it’s just not right that their access should be limited.”

To the topic at hand in the above story, Lt. Governor Kinder acknowledges that "unauthorized trails have threatened the pristine area," but he hasn't explained how state management of the riverways would deal with the problem. Ecbuck tells us in an earlier comment, "That sure 'hints' to me that it would be run with similar solutions" [as used in existing state parks.]

I agee with ec on that assumption ...but don't expect some of the locals to like that any better than the NPS proposal.

In short, "turning it over to the state" may make for some good political soundbites, but if the state were to manage this area like they do their existing state parks, I don't believe it would be the riverway nirvana some of the locals folks seem to long for.


some of the locals folks seem to long for.


i.e the yahoos doing the damage. Tough for them.

PS Kurt - Commenting doesn't appear available on your old man snowshoer story.

ec, comments on the snowshoeing death appear in the forums.

I was searching the web for the "why" of the creation of ONSR and really found nothing that explained in detail the reasoning behind it.

Here are two documents from the NPS that may help:

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/ozar/index.htm

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/ozar/proposal/index.htm

Thank you! I started with Chapter 9 - very interesting reading.