By Reed E. Detring, Superintendent
During the scoping meetings for the public input for the upcoming General Management Plan (GMP) for Ozark National Scenic Riverways we asked the public a series of questions. We asked you what do you like about the park, what concerns you the most, and what would you do if you were the superintendent?
We analyzed 274 comments and 374 pages of flip chart comments from the series of open houses that were held around the countryside. We will be coming to you once again after the first of the year with the draft alternatives for the new GMP. These alternatives will stand as a beginning for our discussion with you, the public, about how the park should be managed. There will once again be a series of open houses throughout the area where we will seek your input and comments.
During the scoping process it became quite clear that there was a near universal concern about the drunken and disorderly behavior that had become commonplace on the riverways. We heard loud and clear that families were being offended and in some cases frightened by this outrageous behavior. It had come to the point where many families were no longer coming to the riverways because of this offensive behavior. The rivers of Ozark National Scenic Riverways must be a place where all citizens can come to enjoy the beautiful and dynamic scenery that surrounds us. A balance is being sought where this enjoyment can be available to all people.
The park responded to this overwhelming request by our stakeholders to make the riverways safe and enjoyable for everyone. We began by holding meetings with the park law enforcement rangers, concessioners, partners, and other subject matter experts to develop an action plan to address this issue. This action plan has been in the implementation phase for the last four seasons with a large degree of success.
A new superintendent arrived at Ozark National Scenic Riverways in June of this year. During travels throughout the area, going to meetings and talking with people who live and recreate on the rivers it was voiced by citizens over and over again how much the new style of visitor management on the rivers was appreciated. People from all walks of life echoed how they and their families were once again enjoying the river and feeling secure that they would be much less likely to encounter outrageous or offensive behavior. We feel that the action plan that has been implemented over the last four years is being successful in bringing a balance to the recreational opportunities afforded for all visitors.
Continuing into the 2009 season the plan to bring a balance to the use patterns on the riverways will continue. The plan will include the following rules and regulations that will be enforced by the law enforcement rangers as promulgated in the Superintendent's Compendium.
- Enforcement of illegal drugs, public intoxication, minors in possession of alcohol and disorderly conduct regulations.
- All sizes of beer kegs, and all types of "beer bongs" or other volume drinking devices within the park boundary are prohibited.
- Excessively loud stereo systems that intrude on the areas enjoyment by family oriented groups will not be allowed. The rangers will be using audio decibel readers to enforce National Park Service regulations on noise. The use of air horns and other excessive noise producing devices will also not be allowed.
- Glass containers will not be allowed on the rivers within the park boundary and there will be active enforcement against the use of dry ice bombs.
- All forms of polystyrene foods and beverage coolers often marketed under the name "Styrofoam" are strongly discouraged. This does not include bait buckets.
Alcohol in moderation is not banned in the park. Rangers will be making a concerted effort this season to welcome visitors to the riverways and provide education and information about park regulations that will help our visitors to understand the importance of the resources. They will also be asking people to help us make this a safe and fun place for all to enjoy.
The rangers will also be working with our partner agencies Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Sheriff's departments of our surrounding counties to provide a safe and secure experience for all visitors to the riverways. If you should encounter any problems, record the watercraft number and report it to any ranger, to the above partner agencies, or to any canoe outfitter.
So, please come, bring your families and join us this next season in enjoying the outstanding beauty and natural wonder that makes Ozark National Scenic Riverways one of the most unique and compelling places in our great country.