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St. Louis Public Radio, November 8, 2013

Draft Management Plan Released For Ozark National Park
By Sarah Skiöld-Hanlin

The National Park Service released a draft management plan on Friday for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Environmental advocates have been urging the Park Service to come up with a plan to protect the national park that includes the Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork.

The Ozarks is a popular destination for more than a million visitors each year who partake in a wide range of activities including horseback riding, canoeing, camping and swimming.

Faye Walmsley of the National Park Service agrees that a new plan is needed.

“The old plan was released in 1984 and visitor use patterns have changed," Walmsley said. "And this new plan reflects that."

The lengthy draft plan includes detailed park maps, the present management plan and three proposed management alternatives.

“I encourage people to read it, become informed,” Walmsley said. “It is a big document; you may want to take in in little bites.”

According to the Park Service, the "Preferred Alternative" was developed from public comments and represents a balance among the wide range of interests people have in the park.

But some conservation groups do not believe the plan goes far enough to protect water quality -- and North America’s largest salamander, the endangered Ozark hellbender.

“More needs to be done to ensure that overuse doesn’t wreck the waterways that make the Ozark National Scenic Riverways so special,” said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney and amphibian specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “In shaping how the millions of visitors enjoy the Riverways, the new plan must do more to protect water quality and the amazing Ozark hellbender.”

The public has two months to submit comments online or during upcoming public meetings.

A final draft of the plan is expected by the end of next summer.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton