Citizens Rally for Reform on Current River
Coalition delivers nearly 5,000 signatures to National Park Service at Historic
On Tuesday, December 13, the Missouri Sierra Club and a statewide coalition of
other environmental and outdoors groups rallied at St. Louis City Hall to call
on the National Park Service to rehabilitate the Current River, which lies at
the heart of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Wielding canoe paddles signed
by concerned citizens to highlight the Current’s role as Missouri’s premier
float stream, the group delivered nearly 5,000 petition signatures to the
National Park Service urging reform.
“The Current River is Missouri’s river jewel,” said Ted Mathys, Advocate with
Environment Missouri. “But overdevelopment, illegal and unauthorized vehicle
use, and torn up trails are taking a terrible toll. This petition unifies
thousands of citizens from across the state and around the country who know that
it’s time for the Park Service to step up.”
this article for an excellent overview of the problems with the present
management of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The petition effort comes as the National Park Service prepares to release its
new General Management Plan for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in early
2012. The plan will guide Park Service decisions about management of the
Riverways for the next 20 years.
The coalition is seeking redress in the new plan for years of deteriorating
conditions on the Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork,
including a proliferation of motorized vehicle access points to the riverbanks,
overdevelopment of primitive camping areas, poor planning for commercial horse
rides in the park, and scenic easement violations. In May, American Rivers
designated the Ozark National Scenic Riverways one of America’s 10 Most
Endangered Rivers, because of overuse and poor management.
“The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers are two of the greatest treasures of the
state of Missouri,” said John Hickey, Director of the Sierra Club Missouri
Chapter. “Unfortunately, these rivers have become badly impaired, due to a
combination of overuse by commercial horse ride operators and of excessive
motorized traffic facilitated by illegal roads. For the benefit of all
Missourians, thousands of us are asking the National Park Service to take
concrete action to address the problems on the rivers.”
Ozark National Scenic Riverways was the first national park area in the country
to be specifically designated to protect a wild river system. The park is home
to clear flowing rivers fed by abundant springs; striking limestone bluffs and
hundreds of caves; unique karst geology; and diverse species of wildlife,
including the Ozark Hellbender, a salamander species that was recently added to
the federal endangered species list.
Each year, more than 1.3 million people visit the Riverways to float, fish,
hike, and camp in the park, and to visit attractions such as Alley Mill and Big
“The Current River and the Ozark Scenic National Riverways is among Missouri’s
greatest land and water resources,” said Ron Coleman, Executive Director of the
Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region. “It is the best representation of
Ozark natural heritage and deserves the highest level of natural resource
protection by the National Park Service."
The National Park Service will release a draft General Management Plan for Ozark
National Scenic Riverways in early 2012, indicating the Service’s preferred plan
among four preliminary alternatives. These alternatives range from a “no action”
plan to a strong plan that would focus on creating visitor experiences and
resource conditions reminiscent of those that occurred when the national
riverways was established.
The coalition called on National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to
implement strong protections in the new General Management Plan.
Following the event, the coalition marched the petitions to National Park
Service offices at the Old Courthouse, to be forwarded to Park Service Director
The event was covered by the
St. Louis Post Dispatch, the
St. Louis Beacon,
KFVS Channel 12 TV, and
KY 3 TV.