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Four Years Later, Motor Boat Ban Still Not in Effect in MO National Park

The sign, above, in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways should, but doesn't yet, mark the place where a motorized boat prohibition begins. (Marisa Frazier/Sierra Club Missouri Chapter)
The sign, above, in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways should, but doesn't yet, mark the place where a motorized boat prohibition begins. (Marisa Frazier/Sierra Club Missouri Chapter)
June 10, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Horsepower limits for motorized boats in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways have yet to be enforced more than four years after their approval.

The Sierra Club Missouri Chapter says with the busy floating season here, it's time to put the rules in place.

The National Park Service's 2015 General Management Plan laid out prohibitions for motorized boats of any horsepower on a 35-mile stretch of the Current River and 33-mile stretch of the Jacks Fork River, from April 1 through Sept. 14.

Marisa Frazier, Ozarks conservation program coordinator with the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter, says the area is a major draw for recreation and the vast majority of people are enjoying the park without motorized boats.

"From just the economic standpoint, it would make sense to enforce these horsepower limits so that there'd be more tourism benefit coming from those kayakers and floaters," she states.

Frazier adds that motorized boats disrupt the natural habitat and interfere with folks who want to experience the park's quiet serenity.

A recent National Park Service report found 1.3 million people visited the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in 2018 and spent more than $55 million in communities near the park.

Russ Runge, deputy superintendent of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, says the park has been collaborating with the Midwest regional office to ensure the rules are clear and enforceable.

"It's a lengthy process and this is a particularly sensitive subject to a lot of folks,” he states. “So we need to make sure that it is accurate and 100 percent."

John Hickey, director of the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter, says the upper stretches of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers are shallow and so it makes sense to keep motorized boats out of them. But new engine technology allows people to venture into shallower water.

Hickey says he was at a section of the Current River near Akers with his teenage son and friends, who were snorkeling in the river. A half-submerged tree blocked part of the waterway and another visitor told Hickey his friend flipped his boat speeding over that tree.

"It tells you what's happening, that on this river – and this is relatively narrow part where the river is belly button deep, maybe – there's people who are riding boats fast enough that you can flip them upside down," he states.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Missouri Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MO