State conservation commissioners have been given an example of how controversial proposed changes to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways can be. They have been controversial during five open houses held by federal officials and they have been controversial in more than one thousand messages sent by citizens.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways Superintendent Reed Detring says three proposals have risen to the surface. One would strictly limit cars, pick-ups, three-and-four wheelers and motor boats on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. Another proposal would deal with such motorized use of the rivers in a more relaxed manner. The third proposal attempts to find middle ground and strike a balance in the Riverways’ use.
Detring says the safety of visitors and the welfare of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers need to guide any proposed changes. He says preservation is a worry.
"There are erosion aspects that we need to get a handle on as far as places where people are making their own access points," Detring says.
Rep. J. C. Kuessner (D-Eminence) represents both those who live along the Current and Jacks Fork as well as those who make a living off the rivers through canoe rental services and the like. Kuessner dismisses such environmental concerns, stating he doesn’t believe the area has degraded over the years.
"Absolutely not. That is probably the most ridiculous point, period," Kuessner says.
The second point made by Detring doesn’t sit well with Kuessner either. Detring says the sheer volume of traffic on the river creates safety concerns. Kuessner insists the safety record on the two rivers is enviable. He says there shouldn’t be any change to the current management plan.
"The majority of the folks in our area opt for no changes at all, because they feel like any suggestions they make will be turned in to a negative change," says Kuessner.
The public comment period has been extended to September 11th. Register a comment at the Web site .