Purpose and Need for the Plan
The final Ozark National Scenic Riverways Roads and Trails Management Plan was released by the National Park Service in April. The purpose of the Roads and Trails Plan is to improve the system of park roads and trails to ensure that it provides access to a variety of locations and experiences while also protecting the park’s fundamental resources and values. A plan is needed to ensure that designated (1) roads and trails and associated public recreation areas are clearly documented going forward, and that undesignated (2) roads and trails are properly restored to protect the park’s natural and cultural resources and improve visitor safety. Use of undesignated, visitor-created roads and trails have led to resource concerns and safety issues for visitors, including longer response times for law enforcement personnel and more complex search and rescue operations. Restoring redundant and undesignated roads will improve visitor experience, visitor safety, resource conditions, provide cost savings, and allow more investment in designated visitor facilities throughout the park.
This strategy will attempt to provide accurate, timely information to concerned groups/individuals to help them understand how the draft Roads and Trails Plan was developed, and how public comment will help inform the National Park Services’ determination of a selected alternative.
(1) Designated roads include roads within the National Riverways that have been authorized by the National Park Service through a formal planning process and which are designed, constructed, and maintained by the National Park Service in accordance with NPS road standards.
(2) Undesignated roads consist of unauthorized, visitor-created trails that are not part of the official road and trail system.
Frequently Asked Questions
How quickly will the new trails be open for use?
The park will develop a five- to seven-year phased implementation strategy for rehabilitation, construction, and maintenance of roads and trails. The initiation and sequencing of trail and restoration projects would be established with consideration for specific conditions and needs at each site and would take available funding and resources (equipment, trail crews, etc) into account. New construction will require site-specific NEPA and section 106 compliance to ensure the suitability of final trail routes, staging, parking, and trailheads. Information about progress and changes will be posted on the park website and shared through news releases or social media, as appropriate.
Can I begin riding my bike on the existing trails that have been designated in the plan for bicycling?
Currently, bicycling is only authorized on roads within the park. A new regulation must be passed to allow bikes on park trails. The NPS will seek to authorize bikes on the biking trails proposed in the selected alternative and will initiate the required rule-making process. The park will inform the public about the status of the rule-making process, which will include an opportunity for additional public comment.
How soon will unauthorized roads and trails be closed?
Closure of unauthorized roads and trails will be phased as part of the overall implementation strategy, as the needs and timeline for locations may vary. As unauthorized roads and trails are closed and restored to natural conditions, there will be an educational/informational period to make visitors aware of changes.
How will I know what’s open and closed and what activities are allowed?
As part of the implementation strategy, the NPS will develop a comprehensive plan for educating and informing the public about changes related to the roads and trails system.
This will include updated information about roads and trails on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/ozar, social media posts, news releases, road and trail signs, and information posted on bulletin boards.
Will I get a ticket if I’m on an unauthorized road or trail?
Educating visitors about the changes associated with roads and trails will be a piece of implementation strategy. As unauthorized roads and trails are closed and restored to natural conditions, there will be an educational/informational period to make visitors aware of changes.
Will the park begin requiring permits for horseback riding in the park?
Initiating a permit system would be part of the phased implementation of the Roads and Trails Management Plan and would require time to develop. As a permit system is developed, the park will keep the public informed about how and when it will be implemented.
Last updated: April 18, 2022