Comment period for Roads and Trails Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is OPEN until August 18th

The National Park Service needs our help at Ozark National Scenic Riverways. They have big problems along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers and only public input during this critical and final review stage of their Roads and Trails Management Plan will provide them with the tools they need to address those issues.

Two of those major problems are horses and ATV’s.
We like horses. We really do! They are big, bold and majestic, and we have a profound respect for the bond that certain folks have with their horses. Individually, horses are not the issue, the problem comes with large numbers of horses and riders. The dramatic increase in the trail ride industry has led to hundreds of additional riders, creating unchecked erosion on undesignated trails, polluting the rivers with excrement that, at times, exceed the river’s ability to carry it. It’s a problem that has gotten out of hand and the National Park Service knows it. That is why their preferred alternative plan, labeled Alternative B, addresses this directly. It proposes to limit horses to designated equestrian trails only (right now, there are no designated horse trails on the Upper Current River). By concentrating and controlling trail riding to certain trails and certain river crossings, the park can bring some measure of management to a significant problem.

Of course there is much more that could be done, including a permit system for individual riders and commercial outfitters, but for now, we support the park’s preferred Alternative B as the best option.
You know how we said we like horses? We don’t feel the same way about ATVs or any motorized off road vehicles. They have no place in our state’s finest National Park, not on roads, not on trails, not on gravel bars. Nope. Surrounding the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Mark Twain National Forest offers nearly 125 miles to off-road vehicles and two parks within the Missouri State Park system cater to off-road enthusiasts, including Finger Lakes State Park that provides nearly 3000 acres to ride. But let’s leave the crown jewel of Missouri a sanctuary of peace and quiet. The National Park Service’s Alternative B proposes a compromise, potentially allowing ATVs on some designated county roads within the park, but closing others, making them impassable to motorized vehicles. It’s the best option, given the political and financial pressure, but what’s important here is enforcement. Rules and regulations won’t keep people from riding over gravel bars and unauthorized river crossing. Rangers writing tickets will. Again, we support Alternative B with one caveat, requiring permits that could put some teeth in the rules and regulation with more resources for enforcement. 
Visitor Experience and User Conflict
The National Park Service wants to hear from you about their Roads and Trails Management Plan at Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The comment period ends on August 18th so it’s now or never! And while those finalizing this plan are interested in your general thoughts, specific comments that include your personal visitor experience or user conflict carry a special weight.

Have you had to dance through endless piles of horse excrement while trying to enjoy a pleasant outing with your family? Have you set up a peaceful canoe camp on a gravel bar only to have the serenity shattered by the roar of ATVs? Do you prefer to fish or hike in the peace and quiet one should expect in a National Park? These individual stories of user conflict allow the National Park Service to have a larger picture of unique experiences amongst user groups and that helps them better see where some groups often intrude and overpower others.
Now is the time to let folks at the park know how you feel! Please use the link below to visit the Friends of the Ozarks Riverways thoughtfully prepared Citizens Guide to better inform you about the Park Service’s management proposals. And please comment, the future of our best and most beloved Ozarks streams, the Current and the Jacks Fork, are at stake.
We hope you are safe and well, and if you can offer us your support at this time, we are truly grateful.
Stay Connected with MCE!