Missouri saw an increase in recreational use of public lands in 2020 in correlation with COVID-19-related shutdowns with more than 21.1 million visits, the largest number since the record year 2017 when 21.6 million visited.

It is this increased demand that has led to Missouri State Parks proposing 28 bond-funded projects at 22 parks across Missouri.

Some examples of renovation and expansion of amenities in Missouri State Parks in our area are:

• Echo Bluff, where $3 million is proposed for building six new cabins,

• Montauk State Park, where $2.1 million could create a new campground loop with 32 sites and a new shower house

• and Johnson Shut-ins, where $3.6 million could build seven new cabins.

At Current River State Park, $9.9 million is ear-marked to build adequate electric, water and sewer service for six new full service, two-bedroom cabins by the lake and to rehabilitate the existing 12-room lodge that was formerly the Alton Box Co. corporate retreat. Renovations would include replacing the dormitory wing, upgrading the kitchen and dining areas and making some structural repairs.

“It’s a very historic sort of building, it’s one of the only existing Current River Lodge-type facilities,” according to Missouri State Parks Director Mike Sutherland.

Sutherland said he doesn’t know of any other example of this kind of facility along the Current River.

“We think that that would make a really popular location for weekend retreats or family gatherings or those kinds of things,” he said.

The lodge was built in the 1930s and was used as a corporate retreat until 1996.

“It’s also very much an example of the cultural history of Missouri, and the history of what those old lodges were like,” Sutherland said. “It’s a combination of providing an amenity and having people experience what it was like to be at a corporate retreat lodge a hundred years ago.”

Throughout the past several years, state park visitors requested additional campsites and increased campsite amenities like 50 AMP electric, sewer and water hookups, according to a Summary of Projects by Missouri State Parks.

Missouri doesn’t have enough campsites that meet the above description.

“We have a few of those, but we don’t have a lot,” Sutherland said. “Our visitors really want that. We see that in our parks that do have those types of sites, they are our very highest occupancy sites. We’re really trying to meet our visitors’ demands, what people are asking for.”

Higher occupancy leads to more revenue generated by Missouri State Parks.

“They are all revenue producing projects,” Sutherland said. “The idea is that the revenue from the projects themselves will pay back the revenue bonds that are used, so it’s not additional revenue from the general fund or from a different funding source.”

The projects would pay for themselves over time by paying back the bonds that would be secured if and when the proposal receives legislative approval.

“How we’ve structured all of our projects in this proposal is that they have to carry their own weight and pay for themselves over time or else we wouldn’t have included them,” said Sutherland.

“We want to be a good community partner, we’re hoping that we are working with the local communities and helping to draw folks to the area, to the small businesses of the area’s benefit. That’s important to us.”

Sutherland said that he expects 2021 will prove to be another busy year for Missouri State Parks.

To learn more about what’s going on at Missouri State Parks you can visit https://mostateparks.com/