Public discusses fate of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Friday, June 26, 2009 | 1:43 p.m. CDT; updated 8:26 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — Scott Rubinstein of Columbia has frequented the Current River, in Ozark National Scenic Riverways, for 20 years and wants the riverway to be left alone with no signs of development.

“I love to go fishing in silence. When you are floating in a canoe, all you can hear is the water and the wildlife. I don’t know why anyone would want to change that,” Rubinstein said.

Rubinstein attended an open house Thursday night held by the National Park Service to discuss four possible options for the future of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, laid out in a 21-page document provided by the National Park Service.

The event attracted 127 people, all interested in the future of the park. The Park Service has already held three similar meetings in different locations, with one still to come. All have been well-attended, said Eliza Kunz, public information officer for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the National Park Service. Two of the meetings saw about 300 attendees each.

Dale Counts, assistant commissioner for Shannon County, supported taking no action at Thursday's meeting. He said he has concerns for the economic well-being of the area.

“If you limit the use of canoes, boats and horses, that’s a source of income in our county,” Counts said.

Like many of the members at the meeting, the Osage Group Sierra Club strongly supports Alternative A, the more primitive approach to managing the park.

“This is a unique resource, a crown jewel of natural areas in Missouri, and it is being degraded,” said Hank Ottinger, Sierra Club political chair.

Sarah Pennington of Columbia said she is also a supporter of Alternative A and thinks that measures should be taken to make the Ozark National Scenic Riverways more family friendly; she said she's been to other parks where prohibiting alcohol and regulating river traffic enhanced her experience.

Other attendants stressed that there was a need for responsible use from all parties involved. Mary Lamar, of Rocheport and a member of the Missouri Equine Council, said she came to the meeting to gather information and plans to send comments to the National Park Service.

Lamar said she is “pro-horse” and enjoys using various trails in the area. She said she used to frequent the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, but doesn’t anymore because of the increased amount of horse traffic at the Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence.

“Responsible use from all the interests involved is the most important thing," Lamar said. "We need to learn to live together and all enjoy the beauty."

“Public concerns run the gamut," Kunz said. “We don’t want to have conflicts with locals and non-locals. Everyone must show tolerance and get along. We will have to find a balance, and it’s that balance that will be hard."

A variety of opinions were presented at the other open houses. There is a lot of concern for horsepower use in Van Buren. At the Eminence open house there were similar concerns, but they were more focused on land use. At the meeting in Salem, the concern was somewhat focused on the use of ATVs, horsesand motorboat horsepower, Kunz said.

The plan must go through many more steps before a final decision is made, according to the National Park Service document. The open houses are a part of the development and evaluative stages. Other stages include preparing another draft of the plan and then submitting it to the public. After public dispersal, the revised plan will be followed by the final document. The final plan will not be implemented until the winter of 2012 or beyond, after the National Park Service director, the secretary of the interior, congress and the president approve the plan.

Comments can be sent to or to Superintendent, Ozark National Scenic Riverways P.O. Box 490, Van Buren, MO 63965, preferably before July 31, 2009.

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