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Damn. I thought we’d already done what was necessary to preserve the Current River. Forty years ago, the federal government designated the Current and the Jacks Fork as the first protected riverways. But the protections aren’t being enforced, according to the Coalition for the Environment, and now we have a chance to speak :  

The original management plan called for limited access points, but there are hundreds of trails and roads leading straight to the water’s edge. Each additional access point means more people, more footprints.

Off-road vehicle and ATV use has the potential to completely devastate a natural area by compacting soil, destroying plants, and increasing runoff and pollution. Vehicles plowing through sandbars and shallows, along with motor boats, also impede use by those who seek a truly natural and safe environment for canoeing, fishing, swimming, and camping.

Many of those who love the Ozark wilderness enjoy it on horseback. But in excess, even this can cause damage. When as many as 3,000 horses and riders access the waters in a single weekend, their waste can overwhelm the capacity of natural systems making certain areas unsafe for swimming. This level of use can also impact banks, increase sediment, cause erosion, and harm wildlife habitats.

Conservation easements that are in place at taxpayer expense to preserve the historical and scenic landscape have been unenforced, leading to violations that have altered the landscape and threaten the beauty of the Riverways.

Other National Parks that safeguard natural resources, like the Buffalo National River and Yellowstone National Park, have management plans that balance recreational use and sustainable natural resource standards. At long last, the Parks Service is seeking public input for a new Ozark National Scenic Riverways General Management Plan.

This is a time when direct citizen participation is needed. Your first opportunity is a week-long series of public meetings:

Monday, June 22, 5-8PM

Van Buren Community Center, Intersection of D Hwy and Business 60, Van Buren, MO 63965

Tuesday, June 23, 5-8PM

Eminence High School New Gym, 1 Redwing Drive (College Drive), Eminence, MO 65466

Wednesday, June 24, 5-8PM

Ozark Natural & Cultural Resource Center, 202 S. Main Street (Hwy 19), Salem, MO 65560

Thursday, June 25, 3:30-7PM

Courtyard by Marriott, 3301 Lemone Industrial Blvd, Columbia, MO 65201

Friday, June 26, 3:30-7PM

Crowne Plaza Hotel, 7750 Carondelet Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105

If you cannot attend one of the National Park Service public meetings, please review the plan and submit your comments  in support of better management practices including implementation of appropriate usage standards. Every comment counts, so please make yours. You may also submit comments in writing and, most recommended, electronically.

On some western rivers–at the Grand Canyon, for example–traffic is kept within bounds by having companies bid for a limited number of concessions to take tourists on the river (as well as a limited number of people each concessioner may put on the river in a day’s time). Individuals who want to use the river can obtain permits from a strictly controlled pool. Those westerners know how valuable rivers are.

Missouri, though? We ban beer bongs on the river. I don’t have a problem with doing that. Cut down on drunkenness on the river, by all means, but first, make sure you preserve the river itself.