Friends of Ozark Riverways
December, 3rd 2013
Draft Riverways Plan Open for Public Comment
The National Park Service (NPS) released its Draft General Management Plan (GMP) for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) for public comment on November 8. The steering committee of Friends of Ozark Riverways (FOR) has reviewed the 512-page document, and we applaud the National Park Service for addressing many of the issues that have been festering at ONSR for years.
Friends of Ozark Riverways understands that communities along the Riverways rely heavily on tourism to support their local economies. We believe a well managed park will help foster the type of visitors who have respect for the natural and cultural heritage of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.
While all plan alternatives are a step in the right direction, we believe the NPS-preferred Alternative B provides the most balance among the three alternatives and deals well with FOR’s long-standing concerns, though some of our member organizations may favor the environmentally preferable Alternative A or a mix of elements from alternatives A and B.
Highlights of Alternative B:
- Enhances opportunities for visitors to experience the park’s natural and cultural resources through resumption of an oral history program, establishment of a new visitor learning center at Powder Mill, and restoration of natural and cultural landscapes and historic structures.
- Provides a balance of diverse recreational opportunities.
- Develops two additional campgrounds at existing day-use areas at Akers and Blue Springs.
- Closes undesignated roads and access points and restores 45 miles of roads to natural condition.
- Converts 10 miles of roads in primitive zones to hiking trails.
- Reduces the number of gravel bars open to motorized vehicles and limits drive-in camping to designated sites; access from the river to gravel bars will not change.
- Provides for a horse use and trail management plan (possibly with a permit system), closes 65 miles of undesignated horse trails and river crossings, adds 35 miles of designated horse trails, and redesigns 23 miles of existing designated trails to limit impacts to natural and cultural resources.
- Establishes non-motorized zones on the upper rivers to reduce user conflict while providing continued opportunities for motorboat use in the majority of the park on the lower stretches.
- Fulfills a commitment in the 1984 GMP to identify areas in ONSR with wilderness qualities and recommends 3430 acres in the Big Spring area for such management.
We encourage everyone to comment on this important plan, as it will guide managers of the Riverways for the next twenty years. Comments must be submitted no later than January 8, 2014, either on-line at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ozar or by mail to ONSR, 404 Watercress Drive, P.O. Box 490, Van Buren MO.
We also encourage you to attend one of the public meetings:
- December 10, Van Buren Youth & Community Center, 6-8pm open house, 8-9pm wilderness hearing
- December 11, Salem City Hall Auditorium, 10am-12noon open house
- December 11, Powder Valley Conservation Center (Kirkwood), 6-8pm open house, 8-9pm wilderness hearing
We are anxiously awaiting the release of the new General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Please check back here or our Facebook page for more information as it becomes available.
Today representatives from statewide environmental, fishing, paddling, and conservation organizations put the National Park Service on notice that more is expected in managing the Current River for the future.
American Rivers, a national conservation organization, issued its annual “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report, and for the first time in the report’s 26-year history, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways park has been named one of the top ten endangered rivers.
“We have to do more today to avert the catastrophes of tomorrow,” says Kally Higgins, spokesperson for the Friends of Ozark Riverways. “We are seeing visible signs that the health of the Current River is in trouble. For example, we have seen in recent years restrictions on swimming at certain areas because of too high bacteria, and we are most concerned over erosion where inappropriate access points have sprung up. In fact, there are more than 130 access points that the Coalition has documented. It works out that it is the equivalent of one access point per mile. It is simply too much for the river to handle.”
The Current River is managed by the National Park Service and was established to provide both recreation and protection for the scenic beauty. The park features more than 350 springs, including the National Park’s largest spring, 338 recorded caves, and 200 wildlife species are found nowhere else in the world.
Speaking at today’s press conference, business owner, Lisa Hollenbeck, co-owner of Alpine Shop of Kirkwood, Missouri, said, “There is a quantifiable return on investment when we invest in our public lands and waters as exemplified by the recreation economy. The Current River offers the kind of access that is good for business and our economy.”
Coalition member Ron Coleman of The Open Space Council St. Louis noted, “The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is one of Missouri’s greatest natural treasures and is deserving of the highest level of management by the National Park Service. Overuse and abuse of this premier Ozark open space must be managed in a sustainable manner that insures for its long term conservation and outdoor recreation
value to our state and nation.”
“The Coalition and American Rivers are asking that the National Park Service bring the Current River up to the gold standard of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park,” said Kally Higgins. “We have a chance to write the future general management plan to address the mistakes of the past and guarantee that future generations can enjoy the river for fishing and recreation.”