Rep. Smith Blasts Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 2:30pm admin
On August 18, Congressman Jason Smith submitted official comments for the record expressing concern about the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) proposed Roads and Trails Plan Preliminary Alternatives (R&T Plan). In his comments, he noted this proposal could reduce trails and limit access points inhibiting full enjoyment of the park for all visitors. Smith’s comments indicate the proposal fails to meet the needs of some of ONSR’s most frequent and loyal patrons.
“Long before the Ozark National Scenic Riverways was in the national park system, this natural wonder has offered nature lovers from all across the country and local Missourians a unique and pristine chance to enjoy the outdoors,” said Rep. Jason Smith. “When the park was created, that National Park Service itself promised to maintain access to the park for so many Missourians who have been able to enjoy its natural beauty for generations. Unfortunately, this new plan limits certain access points, closes trails and river crossings, essentially cutting off certain areas of the park to visitors. I made clear to the Park Service that any new plan going forward needs to maintain a robust number of roads, hiking trails, equestrian trails, and access points so that ONSR visitors can continue to enjoy these parks.” In his comments, Smith noted, “Closing trails, access points and river crossings without providing acceptable replacements will create crowded, less enjoyable, and potentially dangerous trails and risk cutting off certain areas of the park to visitors. A final alternative must provide the highest feasible amount of river crossings, access points, and trails for multi-purpose and equestrian use.”
Having reviewed the Roads and Trails Plan Preliminary Alternatives (R&T Plan) for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) issued June 11, 2021, superintendent Lott, explained his disappointment that once again the proposed alternatives fall short of the needs of some of the ONSR’s most frequent and loyal patrons. Below are his comments which outline his concerns.
Superintendent Lott’s, primary objective has always been maintaining the same ease of access on the ONSR that locals and tourists have enjoyed for years. Unfortunately, the proposed alternatives fail on this most basic point. Closing trails, access points and river crossings without providing acceptable replacements will create crowded, less enjoyable, and potentially dangerous trails and risk cutting off certain areas of the park to visitors. This concern is shared by many stakeholders who wish to continue taking full advantage of the resources the ONSR has to offer. A final alternative must provide the highest feasible amount of river crossings, access points, and trails for multi-purpose and equestrian use.
In its ONSR General Management Plan (GMP) completed in 2014, the National Park Service (NPS) stated that while it intended to close many undesignated trails, it planned to add an additional 25 to 45 miles of designated trials for equestrian use in a follow up R&T Plan. However, since 2014, NPS leadership has been unable to complete an R&T Plan that would satisfy not just the objectives of the GMP but also the stakeholders who have frequented the park for generations. In its 2017 draft R&T Plan, all three alternatives fell short of the NPS’s own goal of expanding equestrian trails and as a result did not receive sufficient buy in from stakeholders. After reviewing the alternatives, superintendent Lott, is disappointed that the 2021 R&T Plan also falls short of the GMP.
Understanding the Park Service’s interest in preserving the ONSR’s natural features, a successful R&T Plan must strive for balance between preservation and maintaining the continued enjoyment of all visitors. Visitors to the park come because they want to enjoy the unique resources ONSR has to offer. The historic and culturally significant sites such as the Howell-Maggard Cabin, Welch Spring Hospital, Baptist Landing, and Akers Ferry and the natural features such as the free-flowing waters, the forest, and the wildlife are what make the ONSR special. NPS must strive to ensure that its R&T Plan does not limit full enjoyment of these features for any park visitor. Further, reduction in access will lead to overuse and erosion of trails which clearly runs counter to the objectives of the park’s GMP. Maintaining a robust number of roads, hiking trails, equestrian trails, and access points is essential for the continued enjoyment of ONSR visitors. The NPS must fully engage with stakeholders to find solutions that will satisfy the needs of all park visitors. Lott stands ready to help facilitate these conversations to achieve a R&T Plan that meets the needs of the people he represents and secures the long-term viability of the park for future generations. Lott asks that no one hesitate to reach out to him or his office at any time regarding this matter or any other related to the ONSR. You may contact superintendent Lott by using the information provided below.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
404 Watercress Drive
P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965