Draft Budget Contains Funding to Transfer National Scenic Riverways
Special thanks to our allies at Missouri Parks Assoc.
UPDATE: The House passed the budget with the $6 million appropriations. We must now contact Missouri senators who will consider the proposed budget next.
(Jefferson City) — The House Budget Committee this week is considering a proposed appropriation of $6 million from “surplus revenue fund” and whatever else is needed from the Park Sales Tax for operation and maintenance of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) in the event this national park is transferred to the state, as requested in other bills currently under consideration in the Missouri General Assembly and the U.S. Congress.
Transfer of the ONSR to the state would mean the loss of some $8 million in annual federal expenditures in the region and saddle the state park system with equivalent annual expenses and an additional $32 million backlog in deferred maintenance.
Surplus funds may be available this year, but they will not likely be available in subsequent years, resulting in a massive drain on state park funds with negative consequences on other units of the state park system.
Kirkwood Republican Representative Rick Stream heads the House Budget Committee which is expected to meet Wednesday, March 12.
- Missourians, like all Americans, overwhelmingly support their national parks, as demonstrated by 95 percent approval rating in recent surveys; we are proud to have such a national treasure as the Riverways in the Ozarks and appreciate that it is operated at no cost to the state.
- The designation as a national park annually attracts 1.3-1.5 million people from across America seeking out Ozark National Scenic Riverways for family vacations.
- The national park provides a substantial economic boost, estimated at $65 million annually, for south-central Missouri communities and small businesses catering to lodging, canoe rental, food service, groceries, and gas. Nearly 90 percent of this comes from non-local visitors attracted to this famous national river. Operated by the state this amount would likely be much less.
- Transfer to the state would leave Missouri taxpayers saddled with substantial new expenses each year. The ONSR operating budget and special project funds total some $8 million per year, and the park has a $32 million backlog in deferred maintenance.
- Missouri State Parks is still struggling with the loss of about twenty percent of its staff during the recent economic downturn, the park sales tax is inadequate to rebuilt staff capacity, and the system is saddled with a backlog of nearly $400 million in deferred maintenance and other priority infrastructure projects. It would be greatly stressed by management responsibility for the Riverways and its other units would inevitably suffer.
- The National Park Service has operated the Riverways for nearly fifty years and its proposed new management plan is intended to provide additional staff and funds to deal in a reasonable and balanced way with problems that have developed there in recent years. It deserves our support to make the Ozark National Scenic Riverways the very best it can be.
Read the bill here