ONSR: Shut down but not shut out - thesalemnewsonline.com: Local News

ONSR: Shut down but not shut out

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Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 11:00 am

The Department of Conservation has offered the help of its agents in an effort to reopen federally managed land, including the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Joe Jerek, spokesman for the Department of Conservation, said the department has offered to use its agents to help patrol the Ozark National Scenic Riverways along the Jacks Fork and Current rivers, as well as other federal lands that were closed as a result of the government shutdown, "so public use and associated recreation offerings can be reopened." He said he was waiting to hear back from the Department of the Interior.

Meanwhile, the shutdown has an impact locally. Concessionaires contracted with the National Park Service have not been allowed to open for business, including their livelihood of placing canoes on the river.

Gene Maggard, owner of Aker's Ferry Canoe Rental, estimated he was losing between $5,000 and $6,000 because of the shutdown. He said he expected to lose an additional $2,000 in revenue this past weekend.

"Any way we can get open again would be great," he said.

Private use of the river has not been restricted. A group of Dent County people took canoes to the river and floated Monday.

“It was a fantastic float,” said Dent County Commissioner Darrell Skiles, who floated in a canoe with fellow commissioner Dennis Purcell. “We wanted to say first-hand you can still enjoy the river, so we put this trip together. We weren’t looking for a confrontation and didn’t have one.”

The Department of Conservation also offered to use its equipment and manpower to stock trout in Lake Taneycomo from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, which was closed by the shutdown.

The department offered routine patrols by its agents in an effort to help reopen lakes managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, as well, Jerek said.

“While some may view these resources as parks, to Missourians these venues are backyards, workplaces, and ways of life,” Rep. Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) said last week. “It is time for the state legislature to stand up and defend our geographic gems.

“We entrusted these lands to the National Park Service, and they have breached their obligation of continued access. We must now take action to govern our own access and care of Missouri's natural resources.”

In a separate proposal, the Interior Department Thursday offered to reopen some national parks across the country if state governors could provide funding for furloughed employees.

For canoe rental companies paralyzed by the government shutdown, the news of the offer came as a surprise.

"Gosh, that's kind of weird," said Shane Van Steenis, the owner of Harvey's Alley Spring Canoe Rental. "I wouldn't of even thought of anything like that."

Van Steenis said the last two weeks have hurt his business.

"My phone has been ringing every day," he said. "This is a perfect time of year. Leaves are changing. It's good for camping, and it's good for canoeing, yet here we

Jack Suntrup of The Columbia Missourian contributed to this report.

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