Action Alert ONSR, Please Read

ACTION ALERT

Back Country Horsemen of Missouri (BCHMO) Members and Interested Individuals,

Please read the following BCHMO Information Update carefully, as it pertains to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) Alternatives for the Roads and Trails Management Plan. The public comment period for draft roads and trails management plan has been extended to August 18, 2021. Additional details, specific locations, and other attributes to expand and more accurately convey the recommendations below will be made available, in sufficient time to further develop comments, prior to the public comment period deadline of August 18, 2021. 

INFORMATION UPDATE – OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS ALTERNATIVES for the ROADS AND TRAILS MANAGEMENT PLAN 

Back Country Horsemen of Missouri has actively participated in advocating for a designated trail system within Ozark National Scenic Riverways for approximately 20 years; and, along with other stakeholders, has provided data, assistance, information, and documentation for the Assessment of Visitor-Related Impacts and Potential Management Strategies (2011), the Final General Management Plan / Wilderness Study / Environmental Impact Statement (2015), and the Preliminary Roads and Trails Management Plan (2018.) 

Currently, BCHMO is accessing information and formulating data points for use in preparing comments for the Alternatives for the Roads and Trails Management Plan. The extended public comment period deadline is August 18, 2021.

BCHMO strives to provide fact-based assessments and information (not supporting or acknowledging the vast array of opinions and rhetoric) while understanding and respecting the legal and regulatory restrictions and requirements of the National Park Service. 

With the comment period extension, on-going meetings with other stakeholders, and continued discussions with ONSR, this will serve as an update on the progress and process of evaluation of the proposed Alternatives, and provide support information in formulating preliminary comments with regard to the Roads and Trails Management Plan.

Overview of Alternatives as related to equestrian users: 

Alternative A:

  • 2.5 total miles (park administered) roads removed
  • No changes to designated trail miles
  • Designated equestrian trail mileage (currently) 24 miles (all in the Lower Current area)
  • Existing designated trails would be brought to meet trail classification standards
  • All undesignated, visitor-created trails (approx. 90 miles) would be unusable and restored to natural condition
  • Permit system for equestrian riding would not be considered at this time
  • Designated equestrian river crossings (currently) 7 (all in the Lower Current area)
  • No new horse staging areas, parking areas or trailheads  

Alternative B:

  • 16.5 total miles roads removed (12 miles public use, 2.5 miles park admin., 2 miles private)
  • 25 miles of new designated equestrian trail miles. Total designated equestrian trail miles 49 miles
  • Existing and new designated trails would meet trail classification standards
  • All undesignated, visitor-created trails not incorporated in new trail system, would be unusable and restored to natural condition
  • Permit system for equestrian riding would be considered
  • 7 new designated equestrian river crossings (all in the Upper Current area) 14 total
  • 1 new horse staging area, 1 new parking area, 1 new trailhead

Alternative C:

  • 15.5 total miles roads removed (11 miles public use, 2.5 miles park admin., 2 miles private)
  • 31 miles of new designated equestrian trail miles
  • Existing and new designated trails would meet trail classification standards
  • All undesignated, visitor-created trails not incorporated in new trail system, would be unusable and restored to natural condition
  • Permit system for equestrian riding would be considered
  • 9 new designated equestrian river crossings (all in the Upper Current area) 16 total
  • 1 new horse staging area, 1 new parking area, 1 new trailhead 

Alternative C provides substantial opportunity for the equestrian trail community, however, BCHMO has developed the following additions and recommendations to be proposed to more completely facilitate the desired equestrian experience:

  • Public use and park admin. roads marked as removed be considered for designation as equestrian trails where feasible
  • Additional designated trail mileage for access to the historical, cultural and natural significant destinations and landscape resources
  • Use existing visitor-created trails for designation where feasible and sustainable
  • Permit system for equestrian riding (or any non-motorized use) would not be supported
  • Additional and adequate equestrian river crossings to facilitate access to the historical, cultural and natural significant destinations and landscape resources
  • Additional horse staging areas and/or parking areas to adequately provide dispersed access at interval locations
  • Prioritized and staged implementation of new trail system components, trail construction and resource rehabilitation will be necessary to facilitate user cooperation 

These are broad proposals and BCHMO is continuing discussions and meetings with other stakeholders, user groups, and ONSR. BCHMO’s collaborative goal is to facilitate a sustainable trail system and experience for equestrian users, ensuring access for saddle and pack stock within Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and, of course, “Keeping Trails Open for All!”  

Here is the link to the National Park Service site where you can familiarize yourself with their plan:
https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=56591