Point/Counterpoint: Ozarks Scenic Byways

In a public meeting at the West Plains Convention Center last Tuesday night, the opposition to the proposed Ozarks Scenic Byways was vocal and unchallenged by any comments in its favor. The town hall meeting hosted by Scenic Missouri board member Eric Hermanson was informal with no moderator or rules for comment, so it was impossible to track down every participant for their name especially because the meeting ended in such volatility. 
Despite this, there is value in sharing the opinions spoken that night, even if we can’t attribute the quotes to each speaker personally. Points printed below have been edited for clarity and should not be considered direct quotes. For event coverage of the meeting, see the front page.
Points in favor as presented by Eric Herman, Board Member of Scenic Missouri. Again, there were no points in favor presented by members of the public. 
-Scenic byways in other states have reportedly generated tens of millions of dollars in tourism revenue.
-A scenic byway will help people enjoy the Ozarks and guide them away from the Interstates. 
-A scenic byway can help define the Ozarks geographically and culturally by calling attention to the region’s intrinsic qualities. 
-A scenic byway is “just a concept,” that carries no government regulation except that there can be no new billboards. Existing billboards may stay. 
Points in opposition as spoken by the attendees of the public meeting in Howell County on September 13:
-An increase in tourism may attract homeless populations to the area.
-The people in the Ozarks want to be left alone. They do not want additional tourism. They do not want an increase in traffic. Many people move here because of the quiet and isolation.
-The scenic byway designation will invite unwanted government oversight and regulation.
-Unelected bureaucrats like members of Chambers of Commerce may make decisions about the byway that could affect property owners.
-The peace and safety of the region is possible because of the low population. These qualities are more precious than any amount of money tourism could provide. 
-If an increase in tourism is successful, that bell cannot be unrung. It will change the region forever. 
Howell County is now in a period of public comment. If you have an opinion on the proposed Ozarks Scenic Byway, contact the Howell County Commission to comment.
Amanda Mendez is the publisher of Howell County News. She and her husband Ron have owned the paper since 2019. Amanda is an enthusiast of all things Ozarks and old-fashioned.
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