Citizens Petition for Reform of Scenic River

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COLUMBIA - Local residents gathered at the Alpine Shop in Columbia Wednesday to rally for closer federal management of the Current River in southern Missouri. An advocate from Environment Missouri, the president of the Missouri Parks Association and Shannon County residents spoke and answered questions to about 20 concerned citizens about the plight of the river.

The officials had around 5,000 signature on a petition concerned with reform of the Current River and surrounding areas.

The Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri's largest national park. This year, however, a conservation group called "American Rivers" named the park as one of the ten most endangered river systems in the country. Critics blame the park's endangerment on a lack of management, poor water quality and torn-up hiking trails.

"Over-development, illegal and unauthorized vehicle use are taking a terrible toll," Ted Mathys, advocate of Environment Missouri, said.

Some residents said mismanagement and a lack of rule enforcement have caused deterioration of the river system's beauty and resources.

"The Jacks Fork (River) was on the impaired waterbody list for high levels of bacteria--mostly from horse manure," Ken Midkiff, committee chair of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

At the end of the rally, a few attendees personally delivered the signed petitions to the Columbia offices of Democratic senator Claire McCaskill and Republican senator Roy Blunt.

The petitions urge for the updating of a general management plan for the riverways. Organizers hope the draft plan will be released sometime next month.