Roughly 100 people attended this debate. Some people, who are completely outside of the area and have NO vested interest in properties affected by the arbitrary rule making processes of the Nat’l Park Service, think this isn’t an important issue, and that the Feds are doing just fine managing and giving access to the OSNR. Those who live and work there have a very different viewpoint.
Thanks to Peter Kinder for standing up for those actually affected by the out of their minds NPS.
EMINENCE — For Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and state Rep. Chris Kelly, the issues facing the Ozark National Scenic Riverways are as clear as the water that gushes out of the springs that feed the popular tourist destination.
In a debate at the Shannon County Courthouse yesterday, Kinder said he sees attempts to rewrite the rules governing the park as part of a pattern of federal abuse of the people, equal in magnitude to the issues that led the Continental Congress to declare independence from Great Britain.
“Fast and Furious,” a botched program to catch Mexican gunrunners, Obamacare, the attack on the diplomatic mission at Benghazi, IRS inquiries into not-for-profit political groups and “cap and trade” emission controls are all part of that pattern, Kinder said.
“Folks, we are losing the country you and I grew up in,” Kinder said. “I went through those five things as fast as I could to say why, to my friend, the folks from Shannon County and the Southern Missouri Ozarks do not trust the federal government.”
Kelly, in response, said Kinder had deftly sidestepped the true issues to win points with the friendly crowd. Kinder did not address any real issues of management of the waterways, Kelly said.
“What you should understand by now is that when that happens you are being used,” Kelly said. “When a politician says so many things you like, it’s like having maple syrup poured in your ears.”
Kinder, a Republican serving his third term as lieutenant governor, and Kelly, a Democrat in his ninth and last term in the Missouri House, debated the future of the riverways for nearly an hour as part of the second Ozark Mountain Festival. About 200 to 300 people listened to the debate that grew out of a February exchange on Twitter.
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways were created under a federal law passed in 1964. Under the law, Congress appropriated $7 million that purchased 88,000 acres in four counties along the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and put it under the management of the National Park Service.
The land purchases tied together state parks created to protect Big Spring, Round Spring and Alley Spring, three of the largest freshwater springs in the nation. Five of the state’s largest springs, all putting forth more than 65 million gallons daily, are within the riverways boundaries.
The national park attracts more than 1.4 million people annually to a region where the other major industries are timber and cattle. Last year the park service issued four proposals for a new park management plan that generated intense local resistance and calls for the state to take ownership. Three of the plans called for new controls on unauthorized horse trails, limits on where motorboats could be used and designation of a portion of the park for consideration as a wilderness area.
A final management proposal is expected this summer. U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, has sponsored legislation in Congress to give the riverways to the state. The Missouri Senate has passed a resolution in support of state ownership.
Many in the audience, who listened while sitting on stairs, cars and sidewalks along Highway 19, were already inclined to side with Kinder. “I don’t know much about it, but I don’t like this idea of federal control,” said Bill Moody of Willow Springs.
Debbie King of Shannon County, a member of Voice of the Ozarks, said the proposed management rules interfere with the right of people to enjoy the park as they see fit. “We have too much government interference in our lives and enough is enough.”
Not everyone from Shannon County agreed. After the debate, Frank Knight of Eminence said Kinder was pandering to his audience. “All he gave us is all the junk that the government is coming to get you.”
Kelly, who spoke first during the debate, said he didn’t believe the federal government would ever relinquish the property. And, he said, it shouldn’t. The state can’t afford to manage the riverways and state control would end the park’s ability to attract tourists, he said.
“Transfer will result in immediate and significant and continuing decline in the use of this resource,” Kelly said.
State control would be better because it would be more responsive to local needs, Kinder said. He suggested that the park remain federal property but that management be handled jointly by the Division of State Parks and the Department of Conservation.
The proposed new management rules would undermine the regional economy, he said. “I am describing the brutal realities faced by Missourians trying to make a living.”