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National Park Service Wants Missouri Input On Ozark Riverways

July 20, 2009

ST. LOUIS - Two of America's clearest spring-fed rivers make up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southern Missouri, attracting more than two million visitors each year to the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. The Riverways is one of a kind in North America, with more than 350 springs and hundreds of caves dotting the landscape.

However, this popular area for float trips and camping is having problems; one of the concerns is drunken and disorderly behavior that's become commonplace on the rivers. The U.S. National Park Service, which manages the Riverways, is updating its General Management Plan on how the waters can be used, trying to strike a balance in which families can continue to enjoy the beautiful scenery while the natural resources are maintained.

Kathleen Logan Smith, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, says the Ozark Riverways is feeling the effect of overuse and even abuse.

"Like every other place that's amazing and wonderful in the world, it's under pressure because lots of people like to go there. And not everybody is really sensitive to what they leave behind or what kind of impact that they have while they're there."

Smith says no one recommends banning some of the recreational activities, such as use of all-terrain vehicles and back country trail riding, but there are some recommendations to limit some uses.

"We need to get plans and procedures in place to stop the downhill slide, and just make sure that we're preserving what was intended to be preserved."

Smith says effects on the trails from horses and ATVs are already being seen. Compacting the soil on the trails increases runoff, and she says that chokes the rivers with gravel and other debris.

Missourians have until the end of July to post their comment with the National Park Service on its Web site at

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO